These histories were written by members of the Fayette County Historical Commission. They first appeared in the weekly column, "Footprints of Fayette," which is published in local newspapers.
Come to the Fair
Be a Blue Ribbon "Champion" There
By Billye Beth Baker
In 1924 a group of prominent, visionary men in Fayette County took a step of faith that continues to cultivate unity, hospitality, prosperity and festivity in our area today.
Over 60 citizens confirmed their confidence and commitment to the goal of celebrating and promoting the talents and spirits of our county. On the last Saturday in April, 1924, about 60 subscribers for stock in the Fayette County Fair Association, Inc. met in the District Courtroom of the Fayette County Courthouse to promote the fair and discuss an appropriate location. C. J. von Rosenberg was elected general chairman of the stock selling committee to amass funds for purchase of grounds for the fair. (Journal. 5/1/24)
After inspecting several sites by auto on Sunday, May 11th the stock holders made their selection. (Journal, 5/1/24). On July 11th, 1924, over 80 acres for the fair grounds were conveyed by Alex Eugen von Rosenberg, Sr. to the Directors of the Fayette County Fair Association. Smaller strips of land for roads, ingress and egress were included by Frank Schulze, Annie Struve, heirs of Henry V. Minden, Otto Tramp and John Schroeder.
The first Directors of the Fair Association were: H. W. F. Meyer, president; C. G. Franz, M. F. Granville, George Hausler, Jake Alexander, B. F. Harigel, William Hermes, T. H. Kroll, and C. G. Robson. Harry Oeding was the secretary. (Deed, Volume 122, p. 72-73)
After this eventful conclusion, active work on the fair grounds was the order of the day. Everyone in town was enlisted to make the first fair a good one. (Journal 5/1/24)
In haste, many hours were spent to get the grounds and buildings ready. George Hausler was in charge of the roadways leading up to the fair. C. G. Robson was in charge of the fence and water well committee. A. J. Woehl was the building contractor for the grounds, M. F. Granville was appointed to see that the main buildings were erected. Chairman of the concessions and amusements committee was Jake Alexander. William Hermes was chairman of the horseracing committee and also supervised construction of the race track. The first gateman was C. G. Franz. Publicity chairman was B. F. Harigal. (Record, 3/1986)
Citizens worked as a team aspiring to make the fair a resounding success. A spirit of pride, hospitality, competition and excitement filled the air. Who cans the best pickles? Who bakes the best pie? Who grows the best corn? Who owns the best bull and trains the fastest horse? Who wins the "Blue Ribbon"? Bring your best girl, then give her a whirl at the dance that evening. Stay all day to enjoy the fellowship, food and frolic. This spirit of festivity and competition is still the driving force behind the county fair today.
The second annual fair in 1925 advertised four big days from September 30th to October 1st, 2nd and 3rd. Some events were: Horse Racing each day at 2 p.m.; Special Vaudeville daily; Better Baby Show; Big Live Stock & Poultry Exhibit and Two Football Games. It was billed as the Biggest Fair in South Texas.
On April 13th and 14th, 1925, jockey Joe Carter from Austin was prepared to train horses at the fair grounds race course. Then on April 21st, 1925, the fair grounds were used for the San Jacinto Celebration. Governor Miriam "Ma" Ferguson was invited to speak at 11 a.m. (Journal of 4/1925)
Our forefathers’ adventurous dream of a vigorous fair to encourage progress lives on and has flourished until today. The scenic 80 acres at times seems insufficient for all the events, crowds and parking spaces required. All our Fayette County fair workers, past and present, deserve to wear the "Blue Ribbon" title as champions.
James R. Faison's Inacuracies in a 1931 Houston Chronicle Article
by Marie W. Watts
Jimmie (James R.) Faison sat down with a reporter from the Houston Chronicle to tell the story of his uncle, N.W. (Nathaniel or Nat) Faison, in October of 1931. They met at Jimmie’s home on 822 East Jefferson in La Grange. Jimmie inherited the house from his father, Peter, who was Nat’s brother. The house, now owned by the La Grange Garden Club and on the National Register of Historic Places, was once owned by Nat Faison.
Jimmie said the following:
- The house remains almost exactly as it was in the early 1830s when Nat Faison dispensed pioneer hospitality and lit the grease cup lamps in the evening. General Sam Houston was doubtless entertained in the old home, for N.W. Faison was one of the famed Dawson men, and General Houston held his soldiers in high esteem.
- Nat Faison stood alongside Sam Houston when the bones of the Texas heroes (Mier and Dawson Expedition members) were interred in the tomb.
- While Nat was being held prisoner by the Mexicans in 1842, he made eggnog for an old Mexican. The grateful man told Nat that the rough beans were white. So, when Nat was one of the 170 lined up to draw a bean, he was able to pick a white bean. Those who drew black beans were executed.
- Nat left a sweetheart behind when he served with Captain Nicholas Dawson in 1842. By the time Nat returned, she had already married. Nat never married, but the love of home was a part of him.
- Jimmie’s father, Peter, moved his family to Texas in 1871 to live in the old Faison home, which Nat left to Peter in his will.
- An old family servant, designated as ‘freedwoman’, was left $2,000 in gold coin in Nat Faison’s will.
What was Jimmie’s bad? His version does not match the facts.
Nat Faison did not purchase the house until 1866. At the time of purchase, the house consisted of two distinct buildings. The east portion of the house facing Jefferson Street was added in approximately 1885 by Jimmie’s father.
Nat Faison could never have entertained Sam Houston in the house. By the time Nat bought it, Sam Houston had been dead almost three years.
No evidence exists to show that Sam Houston was present for the September 18, 1948 interment of the bones of the Mier and Dawson men. In fact an article from the Democratic Telegraph and Texas Register (Houston, Tex.), dated September 14, 1848, places Houston as approaching his home in Huntsville, Texas via stage coach. He was returning from Washington D.C. where Congress had been in session. The newspaper noted, in 1846, that a stage coach ride from Houston to Austin took three days. Additionally, an article in the next edition of the same newspaper gives an eye witness account of the burial, but does not mention Houston as attending.
Nat Faison was a member of the Dawson Expedition in September, 1842. He was captured and marched to Perote Prison in Mexico. The black bean incident did not occur until March of 1843 and involved members of the Mier Expedition. By that time Nat was locked safely in Perote Prison.
And the story about the sweetheart? We will never know. However, we do know that, prior to his death in 1870, Nat gave the house at 822 East Jefferson with “all the improvements, household, and kitchen furniture, one buggy, one horse, one pony, and all other stock and personal property of any and every kind now on said premises” to Louisiana Brown, a mulatto freed slave who was his housekeeper. He additionally left her $3,000 in gold coin in his will. A codicil to the will made two weeks prior to Nat’s death dropped the gold coin to $2,000 and gave the other $1,000 to Jimmie’s father.
After that point, Louisiana Brown called herself “Lou Faison” as evidenced by census records. Additionally, a strange monument exists in the white section of the Old La Grange Cemetery saying Lou Faison, born in St. Louis, Mo. Aug. 4, 1819. No date of death is given. On another side of the marker the name of Caroline Price has been engraved. This obelisk sits perhaps a foot from a small grave bearing the inscription Caroline Price, May 16, 1849 Sept 29, 1867, age 18 years, 4 mo, 23 days. Note: Price died during a yellow fever epidemic.
How did Peter get the house? He bought it from Louisiana Brown in 1872.
Was Jimmie’s ‘bad’ on purpose? Perhaps not. Jimmie was an infant when Nat died and was only three years old when his father took control of the house. His ‘bad’, however, lives on.
The idea that Sam Houston attended the original ceremony interring the bones of the Texas heroes persists to this day and was incorporated into a speech given by General Jacob F. Wolters, who spoke at the dedication of the new granite tomb erected by citizens of Fayette County in 1933.
The Garden Club, in 1961, believed Faison had participated in the black bean as well as Dawson incident. The club built a terrace in the back of the house incorporating 53 black tiles36 for the Dawson men who lost their lives and 17 for the members of the Mier Expedition who drew black beans.
Today you can still find articles citing the incorrect information of the infamous 1931 article.
By Marie W. Watts
Once upon a time not everyone lived happily ever after. A case in point is Maria Josepha Faison. Daughter of Peter and Susan Faison, Maria was born in Hardeman County, Tennessee on December 13, 1862. In 1871 Maria penciled a well-written letter to her father who was in Texas settling the estate of his brother, N.W. Faison. She chats of news from homeher younger brother Percy finds eggs, feeds the hogs, and wants father to bring him a balland asks her father to come home. Instead the family moved to La Grange, Texas around 1872-73.
By 1877 Maria was happily attending the Female Virginia Institute in Staunton, Virginia which was run by the widow of Confederate general J. E. B. Stuart. There she became acquainted with distant relatives of the Faison family and made fast friends. Her school day was as follows: A bell rings at 6 a.m. She gets up and studies until 7:30 when another bell rings. Then it’s to chapel for scripture reading followed by breakfast. She then cleans her room. Chapel morning service is held at 9 a.m. and at 9:15 she writes for 30 minutes. Instruction then begins, with a half hour for each class of study. Dinner is served 1 p.m. Musical practice follows for one hour a dayvocal lessons two days a week and instrumental two days a week. She then takes a supervised walk from 4 to 5 and eats supper is at 6. Study is from 7 to 9 and visiting from 9:30 to 10. Bed time is 10 p.m., with teacher checks to assure compliance. On Fridays the girls have calisthenics with music; a soiree, with many people attending. They wear black alpaca suits with red flannel trim. Maria loves school, she enthusiastically reports to her parents, and doesn’t want to go anywhere else.
In the winter of 1880 she thinks wistfully about home cooking, commenting on the school fare: they live on rice and hominy with Irish potatoesmashed up, baked, fried and cooked in every shaped and form. She wishes she could be home for Christmas, if only for a week, where she would enjoy nice things to eat such as turkey, cheese, and pineapples. Occasionally she pines for a boiled custard or transparent pie from home.
Throughout her letters home Maria is clear she is trying hard to please her parents and enthusiastically talks about visiting with relatives and friends. Her letters plainly reveal she loves the finer things in life. A present to her mother was delayed, for instance, because the jeweler did not have solid silver spoons and Maria was not about to send plated ones because she knew mamma didn’t like them. She sent her aunty a new card case as she lost her old one and a new fashion neck tie, an immense white tie worn tied over the collar in a large bow knot. Her aunty, Maria proclaimed, could introduce style in La Grange. She talked of wanting kid shoes, new hats, new winter outfits, and money. Yellow fever in La Grange is tough, she comments, when husband and wife both have it in a time of poverty and with no servants.
From the gossipy comments Maria would make in her letters home, it is apparent she found La Grange a bit backward and dull. She thought Mr. Cook should not leave La Grange just as prospects were getting so bright with the railroad coming in and that the town was improving rapidly, getting rid of the Renfros and some others. She received a copy of La Grange Journal, commenting the contents of paper were improving and La Grange would soon be quite a little city because of all the new buildings and a bridge over the Colorado! When she returns, she says, she will think of herself on Broadway or Fifth Avenue quite often.
By 1880, however, cracks in her fairy tale life began to appear. She writes home that young Willie Ledbetter, with female escort, had come to visit. An older woman, Miss Florence, had given permission earlier for a visit and Ms. Stuart had interviewed the young man before he saw Maria. Maria commented he looked ugly in his mustache but that his manners had improved and he was not as conceited as before. Her father flew into a rage and Maria penned back that she would not have seen him had she known, adding that she was not anxious to see Willie and won’t do so again.
In 1881, Peter ordered his only daughter home. A letter from the school pointed out the school’s position that Peter had a bad impression of Maria’s progress and abilities. Of arithmetic, the letter explained, one can never learn too much and she was greatly improved in music. The problem was Maria’s delicate health. For two springs she had been ill and the doctor had ordered all studies stopped.
In August, 1881, Maria made it clear to her parents she hated to leave Virginia and was enjoying herself immensely with dances, picnics, and riding. Was another suitor a problem for her papa? Maria mentioned that others say she and Mr. Bumgardner, are desperately in love. Maria says she does not think so but has to put up with teasing.
Maria wrote to her mother on March 11, 1882 to explain why she had not returned home.
The only reason, she said, is that she had not been to see several of their relatives whom she must visit before leaving. Additionally it was hard to travel as none of boys were there and she was not allowed to travel alone. Apparently trying to spare her mother’s feelings, she added that she wants to see her and hopes her mother does not think her indifferent.
Maria makes one last plea to her father in a March 20th letter. Peter was demanding the school issue Maria a diploma even though she had not finished her studies. Mortified, Maria urges him not to say anything more on the issue to Ms. Stuart because the rules are not hers but the school’s. Begging to be allowed to stay and finish, she promises she would study over summer vacation. She did not want to stop school without more knowledge of math, geometry and, trigonometry.
Additionally, she adds, she wants to visit North Carolina before she goes home, begging her parents to come to North Carolina and go home with her. She asks papa whether he has given any thought to the idea of her going to New York and Niagara before going back to the wilds of Texas. She can travel alone, she insists, adding she thinks it’s better to go home in fall than in summer. However, she concludes, she is delighted with idea of going home soon.
Maria apparently returned home for good and appears to have done little further traveling. In 1883 a friend from school who lived in Dallas wrote to Mr. and Mrs. Faison, begging them to allow Maria to come for a visit. Whether she was allowed to go is unknown.
Only one letter exists to show the depths of despair to which Maria had sunk. From Flatonia, Texas she penned a letter to her mother on August 6, 1884. In wild, unstable handwriting she proclaims she is looking for a teaching position in either Flatonia or Schulenburg. She declares, “I am determined never to live in La Grange again. I had rather by far been dead long ago than to have suffered what I have in La Grange. I have had troubles in that town that you know nothing about and maybe never will because I cannot tell them. Poor India. I sometimes envy her. She is better off dead and out of the troubles and trials of this wicked world. I sometimes wish I were dead, though I know it is not right. Try to forgive me for all my past faults, which I know too well are many.”
On March 4, 1888 at the age 26, Maria Josepha Faison died at home in La Grange after an illness of four months. A towering tombstone in the La Grange cemetery pays tribute to her memory with these verses:
A precious one from us has gone,
A voice we loved is stilled,
A place is vacant from our home,
Which never can be filled.
God in his wisdom has recalled
The boon His love has given
And though the body moulders here
The soul is safe in Heaven.
Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.
Maria’s letters home can be read in their entirety at the Fayette Public Library, Museum, and Archives in La Grange, Texas.
Nathaniel W. Faison
By L. J. Calley
We know about the Faison Home on South Jefferson Street in LaGrange, so who was Nathaniel Faison? In the old LaGrange City Cemetery lies his grave, marked by a tall, plain marble obelisk. In smallish letters we see his name. His gravestone clearly reads that he was born in Sampson County, North Carolina on April 24, 1817. He arrived in LaGrange at age 22 in 1839.
The signature event of his life occurred when he was only 25. The year was 1842, and San Antonio had just been occupied by an invading Mexican army under General Woll, a protégé of Santa Anna. This event infuriated the Texans, and standing under the oak tree at the corner of Colorado and Washington Streets, Captain Nicolas Dawson issued a call for volunteers to help drive Woll out of Texas. Faison and fourteen other mostly young men joined up for the adventure of their lives. Although they rode hard, thirty-nine more men joined them before they arrived at the scene of the Battle of Salado Creek. Since the Texans attacking Woll’s army numbered only about 200 compared to his 1,000-1,400, Dawson and his men felt a strong sense of urgency to join the fray. He asked for two men to go forward and scout. Faison and Alsey Miller volunteered. They had no idea what they were seeing, and their report had fateful consequences for everyone in the small command. They reported that the two sides were fully engaged with the outcome still in the balance when in fact the Mexican Army, after four furious hours, had worn down the main Texan force.
Before Dawson and his men advanced to their fate the Mexicans had already observed their presence. Woll ordered into action several hundred cavalry and infantry supported by a cannon. John Holland Jenkins, a member of the main Texan force, said that the Mexican cavalry lined up in formation and on command encircled Dawson and his men. As the cavalry began this maneuver the Texans realized to their horror that behind them was even more infantry with the cannon. As it raked them with grapeshot Dawson raised a white flag, but it went unnoticed or was ignored. By this time the Texans were killed, wounded or demoralized. In his report to Santa Anna, Woll said that the cavalry then advanced, dismounted, and “entering the wood, started cutting down every enemy they encountered. A quarter hour later all was finished.” Two Texans, Alsey Miller and Gonzalvo Woods miraculously escaped back to LaGrange. Fourteen, including Nathaniel Faison, were allowed to surrender. Thirty-seven, including Dawson, were killed.
After spending fifteen months in Perote Prison, Faison was released to return to La Grange, where he was hired as Deputy Fayette County Clerk in 1844. The first document to bear his signature as county clerk, ironically, was a land conveyance to settle the estate of William Eastland, a close friend since boyhood to Nicolas Dawson (even sharing the same middle name), a leader of the Mier Expedition a few months after the Battle of Salado Creek, and the first to draw a black bean and be shot after being taken prisoner there.
From 1845 until 1854 Faison was the Clerk of Fayette County. In 1848 he and Edwin Manton revisited the Dawson battlefield, collected the bones of those who died, and buried them on the hill above LaGrange.
The Census of 1860 revealed that Faison had $20,000 in real property and $8,000 in personal property. His occupation was listed as “gentleman.” Over the next ten years he continued to add to his land holdings, many of which are detailed in the deed records of Fayette County, although he had extensive acreage in other parts of the state also. In 1866 he bought and moved into what is now known as the Faison House. He owned over 35,000 acres when he died on the twenty-ninth of June, 1870. He never married.
Enough is known about this singular man to spark admiration and generate further curiosity, namely, why did he, being more literate than most Texans of his time, leave us so few written clues about himself?
The Faison House became the property of Nathanael Faison’s brother, Peter, who added the main wing in 1884. The La Grange Garden Club preserved the house by buying it from Peter’s daughter-in-law in 1961. The full restoration effort now underway will replace all the interior wall coverings, provide heating and air-conditioning, renovate the museum holdings, and landscape the property. The house is open to visitors on the second Saturday of each month.
By Marie W. Watts
Peter Ballard Faison spent his life living off the largess of others. Never a self-made man, Peter benefitted from the wealth of his father, William “Wright” Faison, and his brother, Nathaniel W. Faison.
Peter was born on March 17, 1833 in Tennessee, the fifth of Wright and Mary “Polly” Ballard Faison’s six children. His father had just moved the family to Tennessee from North Carolina and eventually the family settled on a land grant that Wright obtained in 1834. Wright would receive two other land grants in 1852.
Despite being listed as a laborer on the 1850 Tennessee census, Peter ultimately graduated in 1858 with an A.B. degree from the University of North Carolina, where he participated in the Dialectic (debating) Society. Wright died in 1859, leaving 215 acres and 27 slaves. Peter was tasked as the estate’s administrator.
No evidence exists to indicate that Peter served during the Civil War. Peter married and had three children with his wife and cousin, Susan E. Rhodes—Maria Josepha (June 13, 1862), Percy Ballard (June 12, 1865) and James Rhodes (August 13, 1869). While his sons would eventually marry, none of his children had children.
Peter did, however, attempt to secure reimbursement from the Southern Claims Commission in 1872. Swearing that he had not given aid to the Confederacy voluntarily nor served, he asked for $2,888 ($55,254 in 2015). He said the reparations were for supplies that he had given to—or were taken by—federal soldiers in 1862-63. He claimed the loss of mules, potatoes, hogs, corn, beef, bacon, molasses and vinegar. Of his ten witnesses, four were African-American with the last name of Faison. His claim was denied. Despite his insistence that he had not been a Confederate sympathizer, Peter was officially authorized to sell subscriptions to the monthly magazine, “The Annals of the Army of Tennessee and Early Western History” including a “Chronological Summary of Battles and Engagements in the Western Armies of the Confederacy” in 1878.
Nathaniel’s death in 1870 was a godsend for Peter. Nathaniel, who lived in La Grange, Texas, drafted a will on April 3, 1870. The will stipulated that Louisiana Brown, Nathaniel’s mulatto housekeeper, was to receive $3,000 in gold coin after Nathaniel’s death. It does appear that Peter came to Texas upon hearing that Nathaniel lay dying because a codicil to the will, dated June 14, 1870, reduced the $3,000 of gold coin payable to Louisiana to $2,000 and Peter received the other $1,000. On June 29, 1870 Nathaniel died, leaving Peter and local residents W.H. Ledbetter and B. Timmons as executors of his estate. Peter applied to probate the will on July 2, 1870.
At some point, Peter learned that Nathaniel had sold his house, located at 822 South Jefferson, and its contents to Louisiana on April 2, 1870 for $5.00. In November, 1872, Peter purchased the property from Louisiana for $3,000 in gold coin. Peter then moved his family to La Grange and began a career in real estate, using Nathaniel’s vast holdings as a springboard.
At least one of Peter’s real estate deals caused some trouble for the buyers. In 1875 Peter claimed deed to more than 600 acres of land. However, it was not shown that he had title to all of the acreage In 1876 he made an agreement with brothers A.M. and N.C. Holstein and, in 1879, they paid him for 101 acres of the land, which he then deeded to them. Eventually the rightful owner appeared, and A.M. Hostein lost his share of the land in 1888 after appealing to the Supreme Court of Texas.
Peter seemingly kept an eagle-eye on payments due him. On March 14, 1874, he wrote to Edmund Patterson in Tennessee notifying him that the balance due on the lot Mr. Patterson bought was payable on March 1st. Peter stated, “As I am needing money very much, hope you pay it promptly.”
Apparently Peter enjoyed finery. Peter’s business letters indicate the following:
- Returned glass with gold frames to Tiffany in New York in July, 1879.
- Ordered boys’ shirts and collars from Belwen, the Clothier at the corner of Broadway and Canal in New York in November, 1879.
- Sent $20 to Tiffany for a “fine silver cup” in February 1880. He asked if the firm could make a silver pitcher out of 40 to 50 Mexican dollars of pure silver.
- Returned shoes to a store in Louisville in May, 1880 because his wife did not like a buttoned shoe. He ordered one pair of kid gloves and boots with laces on the inside, low heels, and width D.
- Ordered a duster from Lord and Taylor in New York in June, 1881. He noted that his wife liked the suit that the store had recently made for him and he wanted the duster crafted of the same material.
Peter endeavored to follow Nathaniel into public service but was unsuccessful. Nathaniel had been the Fayette County Clerk for a number of years. Peter lost the 1876 election for the position of Fayette County Surveyor to Homer P. Hill by a margin of 1,310 to 676.
In 1884, Peter built a substantial addition to the house, connecting the two portions of the existing house. The addition boasted two large rooms with a hallway in between. One was used as a parlor while the other as a bedroom.
Eventually, Peter became active in the St. James Episcopal Church where he and his entire family were baptized. He did serve in leadership roles within the church, including acting as a warden in 1894.
Peter had a difficult relationship with his daughter, Maria, and was very protective of her. While Maria was attending school in Staunton, Virginia, a local young man, Willie Ledbetter, stopped by the school to visit Maria in 1880. He was interviewed by the head of the school and only then was he allowed to visit Maria with a chaperone present. Peter flew into a rage and Maria promised she would not visit with Willie again.
By 1881, Peter ordered Maria home, despite the fact that she had not graduated due to health issues. He insisted the school issue a diploma, anyway. Meanwhile, Maria postponed her homecoming and made a desperate plea to Peter to stay. Apparently it was unsuccessful and she returned to La Grange. Maria died in 1888 at the age of 26 after a four month illness. She never married.
During Peter’s life, he maintained a complex relationship with the former slaves of his father’s plantation. He posted bond for Lucy Faison (African-American) in August 9, 1866 for a marriage license in Tennessee. Among the papers found in the N.W. Faison house are three notes signed with an “X” by Tom Faison (African-American) in 1898 for $3.00, $2.45, and $5.00. Tom was, however, charged an 8% interest rate. Tom is believed to be a descendent of the former Faison slaves.
Additionally, Payton Faison, who is listed as a slave in Wright’s will, came to Texas at some point and is shown owning 60 acres of land in the 1871 Fayette County tax records. There is no indication how Payton, who is thought to be the son of Wright, obtained the land, although it could be that he was given the land, or money for the land, by either Nathaniel or Peter.
Peter died of “old age” on December 22, 1918 and was buried in the family plot in the La Grange Cemetery.
Despite the fact that Peter’s well-being depended on the wealth of others, he did not appreciate the same trait in his son, Percy. In May, 1906, Peter wrote his will, splitting his land holdings between his two sons. However, Peter stated that he had advanced Percy different sums of money at different times and, therefore, left the house to Jimmy, who still lived in the family home with his wife, father, and mother.
In a December 2, 1914 codicil to the will, Peter made it clear that when he had given money to Jimmy, he had given a similar amount of money to Percy. Peter complained that he had expected Percy to use some of the money Peter had given him to buy land in Uvalde and Fayette counties for both himself and Jimmy, but this did not happen. In addition to the house, Peter left Jimmy an additional 96 ½ acres for helping Peter during a lengthy illness.
Catalogue of the Members of the Dialectic Society Instituted at the University of North Carolina June 3, 1795, together with Historical Sketches, Catalog of Dialectic Society 1795-1890, printed in 1890.
Drake, Dr. William L., Editor, The Annals of the Army of Tennessee and Early Western History including a Chronological Summary of Battles and Engagements in the Western Armies of the Confederacy. Nashville, Tennessee, 1878.
Faison, P.B. Business Letters, Fayette Heritage Museum and Archives, La Grange, Texas.
Freedmen’s Marriage Records, November 29, 1865 to December 31, 1870, Hardeman County, Tennessee. Copied from the original records. August 17, 1966.
Journal of the Forty-fifth Annual Council of the Protestant Episcopal Church, May 16-18, 1894. Houston, Texas.
Petition to the Commissioners of Claims by P.B. Faison, dated March 9, 1872.
Promissory notes from Tom Faison to H.C. Heilig & Company in 1898 found in an envelope marked “Old notes w/documentary stamps, 1898-1899” in the N.W. Faison House.
St. James Episcopal Church Baptismal Records, La Grange, Texas.
Sistler, Syron and Associates. Tennessee Land Grants Vol. 1, 1998.
“The Faison Home’s Most Interesting Owner”. Fayette County Record, November 28, 2014.
“The Newest Piece of the Faison House”. Fayette County Record, November 21, 2014.
The Texas Reports, Cases Argued and Decided in the Supreme Court of the State of Texas in 1888. Austin, Texas, 1889. A. M. Holstein v. J.H. Adams, et al.
Will Of Peter Faison dated May 18, 1906.
Watts, Marie. “Maria Faison”. Retrieved January 21, 2015 from http://www.fayettecountyhistory.org/footprints2.htm.
The Fayette County Historical Commission
By Bobbie Nash
Since 1876, Texas has recognized the importance of preserving our history, so the state legislature began making appropriations for preserving and perpetuating memorials. In 1956, the Texas Legislature authorized counties to establish County Historical Commissions to assist the county commissioners’ courts and the Texas Historical Commission with the preservation of our historic and cultural resources. County Historical Commissions play a vital role in saving the places that tell the real stories of Texas. Members of the County Historical Commissions are appointed by the local Commissioners’ Courts. Fayette County is fortunate to have 45 dedicated members serving on its County Historical Commission and a commissioners’ court and county judge who all support the efforts of the commission.
The Texas Historical Commission maintains a library in Austin, Texas with holdings that are divided into four main areas: museum studies, archeology, state and local history, as well as historic preservation and architecture. Two of the library's most significant resources include the agency's historical marker files, which number about 15,500, and a file collection of the state's more than 3,100 National Register sites.
The Fayette County Historical Commission's goals are to identify and document local historical sites, persons and occurrences; to attempt to preserve those sites that are endangered; and to promote local history. By state code, the county historical commission should institute and carry out a continuing survey of the county to determine the existence of historic buildings and other historical and archeological sites, private archeological collections, important endangered properties and other historical features within the county and should report the data collected to the commissioners’ court and the Texas Historical Commission. The commission has developed and maintains an inventory of historic properties, completes a periodic review and assessment of the condition of designated properties in the county and reports the results of the review and assessment to the Texas Historical Commission. The commission also strives to create countywide awareness and appreciation of historic preservation and its benefits and uses.
The state erected large granite markers at numerous historical sites for the 1936 Texas Centennial. After the Texas Historical Commission was established, their first historical marker was placed at Camp Ford in Tyler in 1962. The Eggleston House in Gonzales was designated the first Recorded Texas Historic Landmark. In 1969, the legislature passed the Antiquities Code of Texas to protect all cultural resources, historic and prehistoric, within the public domain of the state. Fayette County now has 162 Official Texas Historical Markers. This ranks Fayette 15th in Texas for the number of state markers with more pending to be completed soon (the Casino Hall, Pitman Cemetery, Boehnke Cemetery, and The Old Jail). Historical markers are a popular tool for heritage tourism and sharing stories of public history with residents, visitors, researchers and future generations. As one of the most visible programs of the Texas Historical Commission, historical markers commemorate diverse topics in Texas history, including the history and architecture of houses, commercial and public buildings; religious congregations and military sites; events that changed the course of local and state history; and individuals who have made lasting contributions to our state, community organizations and businesses. One of our newest markers, commemorating the Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1867, is located in the “old” La Grange Cemetery on E. Colorado Street.
The Fayette County Historical Commission is the primary point of contact for individuals who want more information about aspects of our county’s history and its historic sites. Commission members also write articles for a weekly column titled “Footprints of Fayette” that is published in five area newspapers, so that our community members can be enlightened about the history of the county, some of which has not previously been documented in written form. The stories are posted online at https://www.fayettecountyhistory.org. More information can also be found on the commission’s Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/FayetteCHC/.
The Fayette County Historical Commission meets on the third Monday of odd-numbered months at 6:30 p.m. The meeting locations rotate among places of historical interest. All meetings are open to the public. Anyone who is interested in the work of the commission and would like to attend the meetings is asked to please contact the Commission Chair at 979-968-3545, Fayette County AgriLife Bldg, 255 Svoboda Lane #110, La Grange, TX 78945 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The "Fate of Fayette"
A Tribute to Our State's 150th Anniversary
by Helen Mikus
The “Fate of Fayette “Pageant was the most exciting event in our county during the year-long Sesquicentennial celebration that highlighted most of the significant Texas historical events. Since the play was produced over 28 years ago, there are many who may not have lived here at the time, or who may not have seen the play.
One hundred and two children, men and women had acting roles in the play. With the addition of dancers, singers, musicians, carpenters, craftsmen, stage hands, seamstresses creating and copying costumes, publicity, and those collecting antique and vintage artifacts, there were two hundred fifty people involved. Most of them were from Fayette County with a few from neighboring counties.
The play was written and directed by I. E. Clark of Schulenburg; Jeanette Donaldson of Fayetteville was the associate director. Back Stage, Inc. of Schulenburg, along with its executive producer, Bettye Allen of Engle, co-produced the pageant with the Fayette County Sesquicentennial Committee. The play depicted life and historical events in Fayette County and other Texas areas from 1820 until 1986 through tragedy, comedy and drama.
The two hour performances were held on January 31st and February 1st, 1986 in the La Grange High School Auditorium. The Schulenburg performances were held in the Civic Center on February 7th, 8th and 9th with the first two being dinner performances. Texas Governor White started the activities on Friday, January 31st at 4:00 p.m. with a reception in the Fayette County District Courtroom that was open to the public. Refreshments were prepared by the Fayette County Home Demonstration Clubs and served only to opening night ticket holders in the La Grange High School Cafeteria before the opening act.
A special song, “The Devil and Strap Buckner”, was written by Tex Parker about the controversial Strap Buckner, a huge red-headed Scotsman, who was probably the first settler in Fayette County. Legends exist of him not only fighting the devil, but also killing a bull with one blow of his fist. Strap also had torrid arguments over a land grant with Stephen F. Austin.
Another song written by Theo Fanidi told about the big train derailment in Pisek. A very talented composer and orchestra leader, Mr. Fanidi also composed another song for the pageant titled “Fate of Fayette”. He not only had many record albums, but wrote the scores for several films and musicals and performed with his orchestra in many well-known hotels throughout the country.
Married heads of households coming to Austin’s colony in Texas could receive a league of land from the Mexican government if they promised to raise stock, and if the property was improved, they would be able to keep it. However, they had to be Catholic in order to be eligible. This problem was solved by a Catholic priest, Father Miguel Muldoon, who had the settlers repeat after him a certain pledge that would make them “instant” Catholics. However in this scene, the prospective property owners all had their hands behind their backs with their fingers crossed, denoting that the pledge to become Catholics was not binding, (at least in their minds); they only repeated it to be eligible to receive the land.
One of the scenes in the play showed Colonel James Ross, who had established a stage coach station in the 1830s in what is now the town of Fayetteville, struggling with neighbors over Indian problems. Ross had befriended the Indians and tried to integrate them into white society, which infuriated other settlers, who wanted the Indians banished. These altercations finally resulted in Ross’ death.
A very memorable scene in the “Fate of Fayette” pageant showed the men of Fayette County, who were joining Alexander Somervell’s expedition to retaliate against the Mexicans for their repeated incursions into Texas in 1842, leaving Fayette County and eventually invading the town of Mier, Mexico where they were captured by Mexican General Santa Anna’s Army. The tense and dramatic moments escalated when the men were forced to draw beans out of a bag - a black bean meant death and a white bean meant they were to be spared. The remains of the 17 men of the Meir Expedition who drew black beans were interred in a special tomb at Monument Hill State Park, La Grange, Texas overlooking the Colorado River.
Another scene showed how part of the first group of Moravian immigrants who settled in Fayette County in 1856 arrived in the area that is now Dubina. It was a cold, icy night, so they took shelter under a grove of large live oak trees in the area. As the Czech /Moravian name for oak is dub, they later named their community Dubina. Later on they were startled and a little afraid by an odd looking creature that they had never seen before. What a welcome they received in this new country! What else but an armadillo!
Dance scenes included ballroom dancing in attractive formal gowns and dark suits. Couples with “The Road Runners”, a square dance group, wore matching colorful western clothes, and the Czech National Beseda was danced by four couples in vibrant Moravian and Bohemian costumes.
Also helping to celebrate were lovely young ladies representing the towns and communities of Fayette County, including those under water at the Seymour Power Plant and others no longer in existence. They wore attractive pastel gowns and carried a sign with their town’s name.
Holders of tickets to any of the five “Fate of Fayette” performances were eligible to bid at the silent auction on items used in the pageant. Many special props were made by local craftsmen like a hand-carved hardwood replica of a Texas rifle carried by Col. Ross and a copy of his black buckskins. A two- dimensional replica of the first train to enter Fayette County and a three- dimensional replica of Strap Buckner’s log cabin were painted and signed by a local artist. There was also a copy of the ceramic mask on the “Spirit of the Tomb” at Monument Hill State Park.
The Fayette County Sesquicentennial Committee and Back Stage, Inc., co-producers of the pageant, shared in the sale of the tickets and proceeds from the auction which were used for educational, charitable and civic projects.
In addition to the pageant, there were other celebratory events held in Fayette County. On Arbor Day, January 17, 1986, a tree planting ceremony was held in honor of the 150th Anniversary of the state. Three trees were planted - the first, a Heritage Oak was planted in the northwest quadrant of the Fayette County Courthouse lawn. The ceremony was then moved to the Fayette County Justice Center for the planting of a Shumard Oak. The first Heritage Oak and the Shumard Oak were a joint effort of the Texas Forest Service and the Fayette County Sesquicentennial Committee of the Fayette County Commissioner’s Court. Another Heritage Oak was donated by Wenske’s Nursery, which planted all three trees.
The Fayette Heritage Museum displayed photographs for the celebration in an exhibit titled “Images: Past, Present and Future” from March 15, 1986 through December 1986. Many old and new photographs were displayed from local citizens on farming, ranching, social events, holiday celebrations, businesses, buildings and historic events.
Because of the sacrifices of the early Texans, Texas became one of the great states of the United States of America, so Fayette County’s contributions for the Sesquicentennial celebration were fitting tributes to its 150 years of incredible history.
Fayette County Record; June issues, 1986
La Grange Journal; Vol. 106, Number 4; Wednesday, January 29, 1986
How Fayette County Came To Beby Larry K. Ripper
To commemorate the 175th anniversary of Fayette County, the following article published in the “Footprints of Fayette” column on August 5, 2001 was reprinted on September 17, 2013. The map at right is modified from one published by Fayette County in December 1940 as part of an inventory of the County Archives of Texas. Click on map for larger view.
Did you ever wonder how and when Fayette County was organized? What distant events in our state's history would shape "old La Fayette's" boundaries, as we know them today?
In the days when Texas lands were still a part of Mexico, it was politically divided into governing municipalities. Two of these covered the entire lower Colorado and Brazos River basins. Mina formed the upper district, with its southern boundary near La Grange and the La Bahia Road. From there, the Municipality of Matagorda ran all the way to the Gulf of Mexico. The boundaries for these municipalities were often aligned with the river drainage systems, forming the basis for future land surveys. Much later, in North and West Texas, counties would be surveyed in a north-south, east-west orientation.
When the Republic of Texas was founded in 1836, the County of Bastrop was organized at the southern end of the Municipality of Mina, with Colorado County being formed at the upper end of the old Municipality of Matagorda. La Grange, and the La Bahia Road, again formed the natural boundary between these two new counties.
The Second Congress of the Republic of Texas authorized the organization of Fayette County on December 14, 1837. According to Weyand and Wade's An Early History of Fayette County, "The petition presented by Judge James Lester, Andrew Rabb, and John Moore, requested that the district near the dividing line between the counties of Bastrop and Colorado be formed into a county to be know as Fayette in honor of the Marquis de La Fayette, who had so materially aided the American Colonist earlier in their struggle for independence".
With five counties sharing its borders, our newly organized county was somewhat larger in size than it is today. As the population of Texas continued to grow, boundaries changed and new counties were formed. In 1846, Fayette would give up some of its territory to a new neighbor to the southwest, Lavaca. Again in 1874, the newly organized county of Lee to our north would take another chunk of God's country.
Today Fayette County is 934 square miles in size and almost 47 miles across at the widest point. She is traversed by the Colorado River, which divides it into two nearly equal parts. Our neighboring counties, starting to the north are Lee, Washington, Austin, Colorado, Lavaca, Gonzales, Caldwell, and Bastrop.
Notable Facts and Firsts in Fayette County
by Carolyn Heinsohn
Most of the residents of Fayette County consider themselves fortunate to be living in a place noted not only for its beauty, but also for its heritage and history. Fayette County and its residents can claim many “firsts”, giving it a unique distinction that sets it apart from other counties in the state. Some of these “firsts”, as well as other notable facts are listed below:
In 1814, Aylett C. Buckner and companion, Peter Powell, squatted on what is now Fayette County land, becoming the first documented Anglo settlers.
Sylvanus Castleman received the first league of land in the area that would become Fayette County in 1824.
William Rabb erected the first grist mill on the Colorado River at Rabb’s Prairie in 1830. He also planted and harvested the first crop ever produced in the county.
Christian Gotthelf Wertzner was the first permanent German settler in the county, arriving in 1831.
Biegel, the first German settlement in the county and the second in the state was founded by Joseph Biegel in 1832. It now lies under the Fayette Power Plant cooling lake.
Tabitha Moore, the daughter of Col. John H. and Eliza Cummins Moore, was the first white child born in La Grange.
The first school in the county was founded in 1834 by David Breeding on his land approximately five miles northeast of Fayetteville.
The first shot of the Texas Revolution was fired from a small cannon by Texans under the command of Col. John H. Moore of La Grange on October 2, 1835 near Gonzales, Texas.
Fayette County was created in 1837 from the counties of Colorado and Mina (Bastrop) by the Republic of Texas Congress.
In 1838, Eblin’s League south of La Grange was in consideration to be the site of the capital of the Republic of Texas; however, Sam Houston vetoed the bill. The south side of present-day La Grange is in Eblin’s League.
The first institution of higher education in Texas was established in 1837-38 in Rutersville. The first Protestant and first Methodist College in Texas was chartered on January 25, 1840 in Rutersville.
The oldest man killed in the Dawson Massacre on Sept. 18, 1842 was Zadock Woods from West Point.
“The La Grange Intellingencer” was the first newspaper printed in Fayette County in 1844.
Judge R.E.B. Baylor of Halsted was a member of the Constitutional Convention that wrote the first state constitution. Baylor also organized the first school in La Grange in 1839 and was one of the organizers of Baylor College.
A La Grange merchant built the first steamboat, the Kate Ward, which hauled cotton and lumber on the Colorado River.
The first Czech-Moravian Protestant worship service ever held in Texas was in 1855 at the Brethren Church at Ross Prairie near Fayetteville.
Dubina was the first settlement in Texas to be founded entirely by Czech-Moravians in 1856.
The first Bohemian Catholic parochial school in the United States was established at Praha.
The first cottonseed oil mill in Texas was built in High Hill near Schulenburg in 1866.
Augustine Haidusek was the first Czech mayor of a city (La Grange) in Texas in 1875. He was also one of the first Czech lawyers to practice in the United States, the first Czech state legislator, the first Czech county judge in Fayette County, the first Czech bank president in Fayette County, and the first Czech to serve on the board of the Texas Agricultural and Mechanical College.
The beer brewery built on the Bluff by Henry Kreische in the late 1860s ranked third in production in the state in 1878.
The first bridge across the Colorado River in Fayette County was built in 1883 on the west side of La Grange.
The Svoboda, a newspaper founded by Augustin Haidusek in La Grange in 1885, was the largest Czech newspaper in Texas at that time with a circulation of 4000 subscribers.
The first telephone line in the county was installed from La Grange to Weimar in 1887.
The first street lights in La Grange, placed at the four corners of the square, were installed in 1892.
The SPJST, a state-wide Czech fraternal organization, was founded in La Grange in 1896.
A state-wide fraternal organization known as the K.J.T. was founded at Hostyn in 1889 (K.J.T. is the Czech Catholic Union of Texas.)
The first rural mail route in Texas began in La Grange in 1899.
Bermuda Valley in Schulenburg was the first horse race track in south Texas (1897-1920).
Schulenburg was one of the first towns in Texas to have daytime electricity.
The Carnation Milk Company located its first Texas plant in Schulenburg in 1929.
The first roadside park in Texas was established 12 miles west of La Grange on Hwy. 71 in the fall of 1933.
At one time, there were 20 Czech communities in Fayette County more than any other county in Texas.
The cedar Wandke organ in the Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Round Top is the first handmade pipe organ in any Lutheran Church in Texas.
Hermes Drug Store in La Grange was the oldest continuously operating drug store in the state.
Round Top is the smallest incorporated town in Texas.
St. Martin’s Catholic Church near Warrenton is the smallest Catholic church in the United States.
Fayetteville has the only precinct courthouse in the United States with a four-faced Seth Thomas clock.
Ellinger was the first town in Fayette County to have “talkie” movies.
Joseph Sykora of Fayette County, who died at age 106 in 1970, had the distinction of being the oldest Czech American at that time.
Fayette County was the first county in Texas to scatter wildflower seeds on the highway roadsides.
Fayette County was the first county in Texas to use rural addressing for 911 services.
Fayette County developed the first county-wide recycling program in Texas.
Fayette County, Texas Heritage, Vol. I
The First Year of Fayette County Commissioners Court In the Republic of Texas
by Gary E. McKee
At the July 1847 Fayette commissioners’ court meeting, it was ordered that the county clerk be authorized to transcribe all proceedings of the court from the time the county was organized. This shall be entered into “a well bound book” and the clerk shall be allowed twelve and a half cents for every hundred words transcribed. We are fortunate that the genesis of our county was recorded; although there are missing documents, what remains gives us insight into the issues of the day, some of which still remain, while others have disappeared with the changing times. During this time period, the term “commissioner” was used liberally to designate any person instructed by the court to perform county business.
January 18, 1838
Chief Justice Andrew Rabb Esq. administered the oath of office to the following citizens of the Republic of Texas: C. Fitzgerald, S. Alexander, J. Lewis, and B. Sherrer, installing them as County Commissioners and Justices of the Peace. J.S. Lester was called on to act as clerk pro tem.
The court got down to business and resolved that a county tax of twelve and a half cents be levied on every hundred dollars worth of property belonging to the citizens.
The next order of business was the designation of public roads and the persons responsible for their maintenance. During this time period citizens (designated commissioners) were responsible for maintaining the roads particularly when they went through their property. Roads leading to Bastrop, San Felipe, Washington (on the Brazos), Columbus and Gonzales and their caretakers were assigned. An order to clear out a road through Rabb’s Prairie to Cunningham’s on the Bastrop County line was issued. Some of the more notable commissioners were Joseph Beegle (sic), Joel Robinson (sic), Jesse Burnam (sic), N.W. Eastland, Norman Woods, David Berry and Redding Andrews.
April 21, 1838
It was resolved the petition of J.W. Dancy, agent for the Company of the Colorado City, be granted the right to establish a ferry on the Colorado River at a point assigned in the petition.
July 4, 1838
John H. Moore donated his ferry crossing property at the La Bahia crossing to the county. Moore received ninety eight dollars for his boat. The court then rented out the ferry operation to William Fitzgerald for one half of the proceeds for six months. Fitzgerald put up one thousand dollars bond. It was reported six months later that the boat was unfit for service and not worth repairing.
The court ordered the payment of eighty four dollars and fifty cents be paid to D. L. Kornegay (county clerk) for books and stationary needed for county business. A jail had been constructed at a cost of 460 dollars and that money should be appropriated to pay for it. In an effort to increase the tax base, it was ordered that non-residents be taxed on property that they own in the county. Elections were ordered to be held in the following precincts: the J.W. Woods settlement, Colorado City, La Grange and Cummins Creek.
It was resolved that the sum of fifty six dollars and twenty five cents be appropriated to be used to rent office space for the county clerk. The court approved 250 dollars for the purchase of a building formally occupied by W. Nabors as a grocery (saloon). The house was to be moved to the public square, evidently to be used as a courthouse.
This ends extracts of the available court minutes for the proceedings of the first organized government of Fayette County.
Fayette County in 1840
Submitted by Maria Rocha
By the 1890s, people were already reminiscing about Fayette County’s early days. A.L.D. Moore wrote the following article entitled “Fifty-Three Years Ago”, published in The LaGrange Journal on November 2, 1893.
“Fayette County, at that time, was almost a wilderness--only two little towns in the county, to wit: LaGrange and Rutersville; the latter, at that time, was the most prominent on account of its flourishing male and female schools and had quite a reputation, not only in Texas but through the States made by publication through Methodist newspapers.
Rutersville was incorporated and flourished under the jurisdiction of a full team of municipal officers and a town full of boys and young men; girls and young ladies from various parts of the republic [sic] of Texas, who came to get the benefit of learning at those celebrated schools; and every family and public house was full of the precious students.
There was almost a perpetual religious service going on every Sabbath, and night meetings through the week.
Rutersville was a lovely place in those days full of young human flowers, with a broad prairie unsettled for miles around full of native green luxurious vegetation and beautiful bright flowers of various colors in their season.
LaGrange, the county seat, organized in 1838, received all other attractions of that account; but was not incorporated, and was a “mighty” dull place – business was almost unthought of. Nine miles north of LaGrange to the Houston, Bastrop and Austin road was the frontier line,-- north of that road was unsettled all the way up to Austin; and, a man who ventured beyond said line was in danger of losing his scalp. Henry Earthman, brother of “Ike” lost his scalp hunting his horse one day, in the neighborhood of the original Aschen’s store. The writer was with a company that searched the country for Indians as far as the Yegua Knobs – when on top of the Knobs we could see the country as far as the eye could penetrate and the most beautiful picturesque scenery of mountains and valleys, prairie and timber. Water course of branches, creeks and rivers in the north-west, together with the calm awful silence and loneliness of the scenery, was remarkable.
Henry Earthman, the father of the above named and grand-father of our Constable Ike Kennedy, lived immediately on said road a short distance east of where the Caldwell road now crosses, and was a prominent stand for travelers in those days.
Localities in those days were known by the names of prominent settlers, for instance: “Rabbs Prairie” was settled by the Rabb brothers. Judge Andrew Rabb lived at the place lately known as the Dr. Pope place. Captain Thomas J. Rabb lived near the edge of the prairie on the river opposite, “Crownovers bend”, on the west side the river. The next prominent prairie above Rabbs was “Ingrams Prairie” now known as Winchester; was settled by John Ingram and was a lonely looking prairie in a wild state. Below said prairie in the river bottom opposite Crownovers bend was known as “Wild Rye bottom”, a poor horse put in there in the fall would come out next spring fat. Opposite Ingram Prairie cross the river we next see “Scallorn and Faires Prairie” settled by William Scallorn and William A. Faires, brother-in-law’s; the latter was our R.O. Faires father, said locality was known at the time as “Plum”.
Next Prairie above was “Woods Prairie” now known as West Point. Said prairie was settled by a family of Woods, of whom Gonzales [Gonzalvo] Woods was a member, and the same man who was in Capt. Nicholas M. Dawson’s defeat at the Salado in 1842, but made his escape in a heroic manner.
Next prominent prairie above was “Primms Prairie”, settled by Dr. Primm, and above said Primm was where F.W. Grassmeyer settled. Now Smithville.
Buckner’s creek and the Peach creek country was not settled.
“Blackjack Springs” neighborhood had a few families—now called Blackjack or Luck’s Store.
All that part of the county west side of the Colorado ranging around from Blackjack with the county line to the river below LaGrange was unsettled except one cabin occupied by Dewitt Lyons and his mother, which stood near the spot now covered by Schulenburg. Mr. Lyon’s father was killed by the Indians when on their raid to Linnville in 1840, at the same time they took Dewitt’s little brother, George, prisoner, who was exchanged some years since and returned home. On the waters of the Navidad a man lived by the name of Schadowin and a few other families and a few families between La Grange and Williams Creek.
Below La Grange on the side afore-mentioned was “Mullins Prairie” settled by a family by that name and contained a few other families, all of which is now known as Holman’s valley.
On the east side of the river from LaGrange down we next come to “Murchison’s Prairie” settled by John Murchison now known as the late Zachary plantation. On the opposite side of the creek below said prairie next comes “Munns Prairie”, now known as the Gay place; also a family of Baylors lived in said neighborhood but all of the original settlers are gone and most of them are dead.
Next below the Gay place we come to the old Ross place; the original Ross was killed by a mob while standing in his house. They were all prominent men of that day before the county was organized. Said Ross was the father of our late T. Ross and Anderson Ross. Hence “Ross Prairie”, now known as Fayetteville. [see editor's note below] There was not a settler in Ross Prairie; indeed there was not a settler between Biegel settlement and Cummings [Cummins] creek on a line as travelled – there was no road, only a dim trail from La Grange by Biegel’s running across Ross Prairie through the spot now covered by Fayetteville on to Cummings [sic] creek.
On the east side there was a settlement of a few families, to wit: John Izzard, Dr. Smith, David Wade, the father of the late W.W. Wade, Capt. W.M. Eastland and others. Thence up the said creek we next came to the prominent old Houston, Bastrop and Austin road—the only prominent road in the county—here on the east bank immediately on the road we find ourself at the house of the Old Pioneer Sam Alexander, who is known far and wide by travelers and wagoners as a prominent stand and camping ground. Above here and in sight we see the home of David Breeding, the father of all the old ones scattered most of whom are dead if not all. We now return to Biegel settlement. Joseph Biegel and Bernhard Scherer were the original settlers within half a mile of each other, in sight of Rutersville, and each one continued to live on the same spot till death closed the scene with old age. Mr. Biegel was a married man in those days. Mr. Scherer was not married at the time, 1839-40. There were two or three other families near said neighborhood, but several years passed before there was much of a settlement. Between LaGrange and Biegel was not settled. Between LaGrange and Rutersville was not settled. North-east of Rutersville along the old Washington county road coming along through the spot where Warrenton now stands, thence on through the spot where Round Top now stands, was unsettled; yet there were occasionally a family to be found off the roads in some secluded spot. On the old Washington county road within sight of “ Colman’s Prairie,” as it was called in those days; was a house near the road with a high roof which became known as the house with a round roof or round top, and when the town was organized it was called Round Top in commemoration thereof.
The side of Cummings [sic] creek about a mile or two was a family named Townsend and a little further this side (west) on the Rutersville road was a church called Florida Chapel and still a little further on this side of the church, within sight of the locality now known as Warrenton, the writer became introduced to Joel W. Robison; who had not been married long and made a small improvement to start with and he was a very young looking man. But the last time the writer was at Mr. Robison’s house it was at a different locality; surrounded with wonderful changes in every way, pointing to luxury and comfort, with several happy looking beautiful children. In those days there was not a grist mill in Fayette county and the writer was returning from a mill in Washington county, now known as Long Point; with meal, and was overtaken by night just as he arrived at young Joel W. Robison’s new improvement and by mutual congratulations we were happy in obtaining such a desirable camping ground; having a wagon and team we never camped out of sight from a house if we could help it. In those days people were mighty glad to see each other on account of loneliness and danger of prowling Indians. The people today cry hard times; but compare the present, with those days 53 years ago in Fayette County and the present facilities and comfort are real luxuries!
Think of grinding corn on a little steel hand mill to make bread for a family, by those who never knew hard labor! Well, the writer did the same at the age of seventeen and it took him a day to grind a half bushel of corn fine enough to make bread. The writer’s father had the first horsepower grist mill of Fayette County built at Rutersville in 1841; and Gotlieb Schneider, had one with cotton gin attached, built at LaGrange in 1843; and was located on the lot now occupied by our H. A. Brandt.
John Rabb, the father of our “Virg” had the first steam saw mill with grist attached built in the pinery above Rabbs creek and below Winchester, since annexation.”
La Grange, Texas, October 24th 1893.
A.L.D. Moore was the county treasurer from1866-1874. After he left office, he became a stockman and local merchant. Born in North Carolina in 1822, he died in Fayette County in 1896. Interestingly, the 1867 Voter Registration indicates that he came to Texas in 1849, nine years after his 1840 account.
Editor’s note: Ross Prairie is an area between Ellinger and Fayetteville that once had three churches, a school and three cemeteries, but no businesses. The previous names for Fayetteville were Alexander’s Voting Place and Lickskillet. Ross Prairie did not become Fayetteville; they are two separate entities.
Fayette County in the 1850s
by County Judge Ed Janecka
In the 1850s, Fayette County was a far different place then it is today. The population of the county in 1850 was 3,756, and in a short 10 years the population swelled to 11,604 in 1860. The living conditions were much different than they are today, and one can learn a lot about the environment and lifestyles of the residents of the county by looking at the grand jury records from that time period.
Checking the grand jury record from the years 1852 to 1859, we find that there were 10 individuals charged with murder and over 50 cases of assault with intent to murder. The overwhelming number of cases that were filed dealt with gambling. Here are some examples: playing poker, playing cards in a house, betting at a gaming bank, betting at Monte, betting at faro, dealing faro, playing cards in a grocery store, exhibition of Monte, playing cards in house that retails liquor and spirits, dealing 21, betting on 21, playing for money in a public place, betting at pool, playing 7 up, exhibiting faro. (“Faro” was a card game of French origin that was played with one deck of cards, a banker, and any number of players. It was popular in the 19th century and was considered a dangerous scam that destroyed families and reduced men to poverty, because of the rampant rigging of the dealing box. “Three-card Monte” was a confidence game in which the victim or “mark” was tricked into betting a sum of money on the assumption that he could find the money card among three face-down playing cards, similar to the “shell” game. “Twenty-one/21” is a modified game of Blackjack..)
There were other charges that we would be familiar today, such as larceny, embezzlement of public funds, obstruction of a officer in the discharge of duty, assault and battery, forgery, false imprisonment, retailing whisky without a permit, attempting to induce one to commit perjury, aiding a prisoner to escape, malicious mischief, stealing of a cow, fighting in a public place, horse stealing, hog stealing, changing the brand on cattle and cattle stealing.
There were some charges that would be very unusual to be filed today, such as cutting and carrying of timber without the owner’s consent, disrupting a religious meeting, adultery, neglect of duty of an overseer of a road (citizens had to collectively care for the roads passing by their properties), unlawfully using a stray ox, maliciously killing a swine of another, and burning prairies.
In the 1850s, slavery was the law of the land. Here are some of the charges directly related to slavery: enticing away a slave, murder of a negro slave, cruel treatment of a slave, selling whiskey to a slave, attempting to poison a white person, and trading with a negro without permission.
Just by reviewing the offenses that were charged in Fayette County in the 1850s, one can see that living in the county at that time was quite different than it is today. What was significant in the daily lives of the residents then is not applicable to today’s standards of living.
Fayette County a Century ago
by Ann Lamer
The following is an excerpt from an almanac published in the early 1900’s.
Fayette County is situated in the southern portion of central Texas, and is bisected by the Colorado River. La Grange, the county seat, is 95 miles northwest of the city of Houston. The population in 1900 was 36,542. Property values were assessed in 1903 at $8,378.080.00.
About one-half of the area is high rolling prairie, traversed by small creeks and branches, the other half timbered land and rich bottom land adjacent to the river and larger creeks. The soils of the prairies are divided between a black loam and a black tenacious lime land. The timber of the uplands is composed principally of post oak and small size blackjack. On the river and other streams are found pecan, burr oak, pin oak, white oak, elm, cedar, pine, hackberry, cottonwood, willow, sycamore and a few stately live oaks trees.
The Colorado, East and West Navidad Rivers, and Buckner’s, Cummin’s, Mulberry, Rabb’s and William’s Creeks are well distributed over the county allowing abundant water year round. There are also a few small lakes in the county where fishing and duck hunting in season are good. Springs are numerous with wells of good water obtained at 20 to 60 feet.
The principal crops are cotton and corn, though in the past few years, the growing of fruit has become popular and profitable in some sections. The average yield of cotton per acre is from a half to one bale per acre; corn from 30 to 60 bushels. Cottonseed oil mills are located at La Grange, Schulenburg and Flatonia and cotton compresses in La Grange and Schulenburg.
There is a cannery and a molasses mill at West Point, an ice factory and a broom factory at La Grange, a creamery at Fayetteville and a soon to be erected plant to manufacture pottery on the west side of the Colorado river.
Lignite is found in abundance with one coal belt extending across the county from near Carmine to Waelder. On the Colorado, three miles above La Grange, a considerable quantity has been mined. Other minerals have been located but not in sufficient quantities as to cause it to be a paying proposition.
Unimproved lands vary in price up to $25 per acre, while improved land sells at $20 to $50 per acre. There are no large pastures, nor is there any State land in the county.
There are 133 schools in the county, 89 for white and 44 for colored. The scholastic population is 6201 white and 2288 colored. La Grange, Flatonia and Ledbetter each have independent school districts.
The Missouri, Kansas & Texas; Houston & Texas Central; Galveston, Harrisburg & San Antonio, and San Antonio & Aransas Pass railroads pass through the county.
According to the last census La Grange, the county seat, has a population of 2400 and because of its many live oaks and shade trees is a beautiful town. It is just across the Colorado from the “bluff” where lie entombed the remains of Dawson’s men and the Mier prisoners. The courthouse is a massive stone structure and cost over $100,000.
Other important towns are Schulenburg, which has a population of 1200, Flatonia 1210, and Fayetteville 398. Other towns are Halstead, Plum, West Point, Ledbetter, Carmine, Engle, Ellinger, Winchester and Muldoon.
A Sketch of Fayette County Officials in 1902
by Katie Kulhanek
When F. Lotto wrote his book, “Fayette County: Her History and Her People” in 1902, he not only included historical information about the county and its surrounding towns and communities, but also biographies of county officials who were serving in Fayette County at the time the book was published. The following is a brief summary of each of the county officials in 1902…
Joseph Ehlinger County Judge. Judge Ehlinger was born in 1852 in Live Oak Hill in Fayette County. He received a law degree from the University of Virginia in 1872. Upon his arrival back to Texas at Galveston, his father who was waiting for him there died suddenly. Joseph assumed charge of his father’s estate and did that for ten years. In 1873 he married Minnie Frels and they had four children. They moved to La Grange in 1882 and he practiced law. Ehlinger was elected County Clerk and served for four terms until returning to his law practice. In 1885, he provided the land, did much of the organization work, and contributed financially to the building of the Sacred Heart Catholic Church in La Grange. It was Judge Ehlinger who laid out the townsite of Ellinger and he named it in honor of his grandfather, Joseph Ehlinger. When the land was recorded, a clerk anglicized the name and changed it to Ellinger.
Joseph Echols Baker District Clerk. Baker was born in 1845 in Nashville, Tennessee. He served in the Confederate Army during the Civil War and then came to Texas. Baker married Miss Patti Davidson whose family had lived in Texas for over fifty years and they had three children. Lotto states that, “after the overthrow of the carpet-bag government, the white people rewarded his sterling worth and elected him to office”. He had previously served as Justice of the Peace and City Secretary of La Grange. In 1876, Baker became Deputy District Clerk, and was later elected District Clerk in 1896.
Sam C. Lowrey County Attorney. Lowrey was also born out of state in Troy, Kentucky in 1868. He studied at the Central University of Richmond, Kentucky and then entered the Washington and Lee University of Lexington, Virginia. Lowrey came to Texas in 1896 and immediately took a liking to the town of La Grange. He opened a law office and in 1899 was elected City Attorney for La Grange. Lowrey married Miss Carrie McKinney of La Grange that same year. The citizens of the county also took a liking to Lowrey and elected him County Attorney in 1899 only four years after he first came to Texas.
Rudolph Klatt County Clerk. Klatt was born in the county of Wongrovie, in the province of Posen, Germany in 1853. He came to Texas with his parents in 1856 and they first settled in the town of Welcome in Austin County. Klatt was made an orphan at the age of nine and his older sister took care of him. He went to school in Berlin, Washington County and in High Hill, Fayette County. Klatt worked in Brenham for one year, then in High Hill managing a cotton gin and oil mill where he lost his left arm in a cornshucker and sheller. He married Miss Marie Hillje of High Hill in 1875 and they had five children. In 1879, he passed his teacher’s examination and taught at Sedan, Middle Creek, La Grange High School, and Round Top. By 1902, he had been County Clerk for five consecutive terms.
August Loessin Sheriff. Loessin was born in 1853 in Prussia and came with his parents to the U.S. when he was three weeks old. He went to school in Fayetteville and Black Jack Springs. When older, he farmed at Black Jack Springs and Swiss Alp. He married Miss Louise Stegemann in Swiss Alp in 1875. He worked in the mercantile business from 1882 until 1894 when he was elected Sheriff. Lotto states that he is considered to be one of the strongest men in the county. Perhaps this is partly why Lotto begins Loessin’s biography with, “There is no man in the county who is liked better by part of the population of this county and feared and hated more by the other part than August Loessin”.
R. T. Bradshaw County Treasurer. Bradshaw was born in 1839 in Tennessee. He and his parents moved to La Grange in 1857. And not long after, Bradshaw worked in the general merchandise business in La Grange in 1859. He married Miss Anna Cook of Fayette County in 1860 and they had three children. During the Civil War, he joined a cavalry regiment and served as a private. After the war, Bradshaw worked in several offices as a clerk. He became County Treasurer in 1872. His kindness and modest characteristics were well liked by citizens of Fayette County and thus he earned the nickname, “Uncle Bob”.
C. H. Steinmann County Assessor. Steinmann was born on the East Navidad River, six miles north of Schulenburg, in 1873. He attended school in Walker Branch, Middle Creek, and Schulenburg. He studied at the A. and M. College and also at Hill’s Buisness College in Waco. He became a bookkeeper in Cameron, Texas and later in Yoakum. He returned to Fayette County in 1896 and became County Assessor at the young age of twenty-three.
Neal Robison Tax Collector. Robison was born in 1848 in Warrenton, Texas. He went to school in that same area and from 1860-62 he studied in Professor Dechard’s Academy in La Grange. He entered the Bastrop Military Institute where he remained until 1865. After the Civil War, Robison went to study law at the University of Virginia. He returned to Texas in 1869 and went into the general merchandise business in Warrenton with his father, Joel Robison (who was one of the captors of Santa Anna during the Texas Revolution). He went to La Grange in 1878 and married Miss Hallie P. Carter. He was a cotton buyer for a short time until 1882 when he was elected the County’s Tax Collector.
G. A. Stierling Public School Superintendent. Stierling was born in 1850 on the estate of Kressin, Mecklenburg Schwerin, Germany. He studied at the gymnasium of Klausthal, Hanover. Stierling volunteered a year in the military service in 1868 and then left Germany. He became engaged in the mercantile branch of the tobacco business in Dunedin, New Zealand. When the Franco-German war broke out, he went back to Germany and fought in the 84th Schleswig-Holstein battalion. Stierling came to Texas in 1871 and continued the mercantile business in both Bellville and Burton. He married Miss Exa Moses in 1874 and they had two sons. In 1879 he began teaching in Washington, Austin, Bastrop, and Fayette counties and created a good reputation for himself as a teacher. Stierling was elected as Public School Superintendent in 1898.
Fayette County's Precinct Courthouses
By Rox Ann Johnson
Have you ever wondered about the small courthouses on the square in Round Top and Fayetteville? They are former precinct courthouses and there are two more in Muldoon and Flatonia.
In the later 1800s and early 1900s, the Fayette County Commissioners’ Court authorized seven justice precinct courthouses, making travel to conduct government business easier for rural citizens. Citizens petitioned the Commissioners’ Court for a justice courthouse within their precinct, and the county would share in the construction costs. The local justice of the peace held court there for offenses such as disturbing the peace, assault and battery, indecent exposure, and public intoxication. Usually there was a calaboose (jail) built nearby, or in Fayetteville's case, incorporated into the building when it was necessary to temporarily restrain lawbreakers.
Built in 1880, Fayetteville's courthouse on the square in Precinct 2 was the first. Local citizens raised $600 and received $200 in tax money from the County Commissioners’ Court. A ball was held in the new building to raise funds to paint it. The two-cell calaboose was completed upstairs in 1887. A set of shackles was bolted to the floor for the occasions when there were too many lawbreakers to fit in the jail cells. Further improvements were made in 1934 when the Do Your Duty ladies club purchased and donated the four-sided Seth Thomas clock with the proceeds from bake sales and other fundraisers. Today the courthouse still holds a vintage wood stove, jury box, benches and rawhide chairs. The Fayetteville Courthouse became a Recorded Texas Historic Landmark in 1977.
Flatonia's Precinct 6 courthouse was completed in September 1888. Located on Market Street, the lower level was a courtroom and the upper level was used as a Masonic Lodge Hall. The courtroom had a rostrum with a railing in front to separate spectators from the attorneys and jurors. Rock for the foundation was brought in from Kerr's quarry in Muldoon. These days it is more commonly known as the Flatonia Masonic Lodge building and the Masons still meet on the upper floor. The second-story windows have been removed and the original bell tower is now gone, but its bell currently resides in Flatonia's Arnim Museum.
Precinct 5's seat moved between West Point and Black Jack Springs and eventually to Muldoon, which was still a fledgling community in February 1890 when Commissioners voted to appropriate $200 for a courthouse there. In 1893, a petition to move the court from Muldoon to West Point was rejected by the Commissioners. After court was no longer held in Muldoon, the building remained in use for a variety of purposes. It was used as a mattress manufacturing facility and a canning kitchen during World War II. It has also been used for quilting bees and as a voting site and community meeting-place. It still stands on FM 154 as the home of the Muldoon Historical Museum. It is the third of three original precinct courthouses still in existence.
If only three of Fayette County's original precinct courthouses are still in existence, then what happened to the rest?
From 1881 to 1883, the Precinct 3 seat moved from Round Top to Warrenton and then back to Round Top. In February 1885, Edward Henkel sold 5,000 square feet of land east of his apothecary on Live Oak Street to the town of Round Top for $35. In May, the County Commissioners appropriated $100 toward a courthouse there. The two-story wooden courthouse built later that year contained a courtroom for the Mayor's Court and the justice court for Precinct 3, as well as a large room for the Round Top Lodge of the Knights of Labor. The structure burned in 1924 and the new courthouse you see today was built in 1925 across the street on the town square.
In February 1882, The La Grange Journal reported that Justice Smith's courthouse next to Srubar's store at Ammannsville had burned down and all dockets, records and other court papers were completely destroyed. Arson was suspected. The courthouse was rebuilt. Ammannsville was the seat of Precinct 7 until 1950 when the precincts were reorganized. The courthouse and calaboose were sold and moved away.
In February 1890, the Commissioners appropriated $200 toward a Precinct 4 courthouse at Winchester. However, apparently it wasn't built at that time. On December 28, 1903, the Commissioners were petitioned again for an appropriation to build a courthouse at Winchester and in May 1904, they set aside $300 for the new structure. Winchester's courthouse and two calabooses were located across from the railroad tracks along Front Street, south of Kaiser's Garage and north of the Kaiser-Peter Store. Court was held there once a month. The courthouse had a stage with a curtain that had local advertisements painted on it. The stage was used for plays, dances, concerts and traveling medicine shows. In 1961, Otto Noack bought the old courthouse and moved it to his farm across from the old Goebel Store, where he used it for a hay barn. It probably still stands on that farm on Riverbend Road.
Seven justice precinct courthouses were authorized, but there is a question as to whether the seventh one was ever constructed. Records show that Schulenburg's mayor petitioned the Commissioners’ Court in March 1888 and that in May, the Commissioners appropriated $800 for a Precinct 8 courthouse and jail to be built. In August of the following year, the Commissioners rejected a request for further allowance for a Schulenburg courthouse. In February 1898, the Commissioners again appropriated $150 to help build a courthouse at Schulenburg, which leads to the conclusion that no courthouse had been built ten years earlier. However, in 1902 in his Fayette County, Her History and Her People, F. Lotto wrote, "In 1888 a justice's courthouse and jail was built by the county in Schulenburg at a cost of $800." Did he just assume this from the Commissioners’ Court minutes? I have found no one in Schulenburg who is aware there was ever a courthouse there, but The Schulenburg Sticker ran a recurring notice from 1903 until 1909 that "City council meetings take place at the courthouse in Schulenburg." Early Sanborn maps of Schulenburg show the city hall, but not a courthouse. However, Flatonia's courthouse is labeled as a city hall on Sanborn maps, so maybe that was also the case in Schulenburg.
Finally, what about the eighth precinct of those times, Precinct 1? That was the precinct that included La Grange, home of our magnificent Fayette County Courthouse built in 1891.
Fayette County Commissioners’ Court Minutes, Books 2-5
Lotto, F., Fayette County Her History & Her People, Schulenburg, TX: Sticker Steam Press, 1902.
"Muldoon and Cistern”, The Fayette County Record, August 31, 2001
Virginia Boehnke, Muldoon Historical Museum
Judy Pate, Arnim Museum, Flatonia
"Flatonia Flashes," La Grange Journal, 27 Sep 1888.
"Flatonia and Schulenburg," La Grange Journal, 27 Dec 1888
Thornton, Cynthia. The Times of Round Top. Bloomington, IN: Author House, 2013.
Fayette County, Texas Heritage. Curtis Media, Inc., 1996.
"Court House Burned." Colorado Citizen, 16 Feb 1882
Sanborn Maps, University of Texas Libraries web site
Winchester Area Civic Association. Winchester Then and Now. 2001.
Photo of Flatonia's Precinct Courthouse and Masonic Lodge courtesy of the Grieve Family and the Arnim Museum
Photo of Round Top's original Courthouse courtesy of Cynthia Thornton
Fayette Electric Cooperative Celebrates 75 Years of Service
by Elaine Thomas
Fayette Electric Cooperative’s Charter Members and First Board of Directors
The Fayette County Committee of Rural Electrification Program met at the office of Attorney E. H. Moss on November 3, 1937 to sign the Articles of Incorporation of Fayette Electric Cooperative, thereby making application to the Secretary of State for a Charter to business under a special Rural Electric Cooperative bill passed by the Texas Legislature. The first meeting of Incorporators and Directors was held at the Fayette County Courthouse in La Grange on November 16, 1937. The purpose of the meeting was to adopt bylaws, consider and act upon application for membership and to elect officers.
The Charter Members and first Board of Directors were: George Diers, chairman; C.M. Janda, secretary-treasurer; H. C. Doan, vice president; L.A. Giese, and Charles Friedrich. Also authorized at this meeting was the issue of certificates of membership to the incorporators and directors whose applications for membership had been approved and accepted. The fee for membership in Fayette Electric Cooperative was $5.00.
Like the vast majority of farms in the United States in the early 1930s, Fayette, Colorado and Lavaca Counties had no electricity. But that was soon to change because President Franklin D. Roosevelt had a bold vision.
He signed the Rural Electrification Act (REA) of 1936, which provided loan allotments to each state. Farmers in small geographic areas were encouraged to organize and apply for funding to build electric power facilities.
A number of electric cooperatives were already forming in Texas by 1937 when a customer from Temple stopped by George Adamcik’s service station and refrigeration appliance store on top of the Bluff in La Grange. When the two began talking about rural electrification, Adamcik loaded up his visitor and took him on a tour of the farms in the area. They then discussed the opportunity with Fayette County Agent J. C. Yeary, who pledged his support. Influential local farmers who stepped forward included C.M. Janda, Adolph Adamcik, George Diers, H.C. Doan and L. A. Giese.
A brisk campaign got underway to sign up local farmers as members for a fee of $5 each. This was during the Depression; times were hard and $5 wasn’t easy to come by. It took many formal meetings and many discussions across fences, in fields and at kitchen tables to add members. By early October 1937, the local project was temporarily allotted $100,000 to build 120 miles of line in the communities of Bluff, Trinity Hill, Bridge Valley, Plum, Hostyn, Swiss Alp, Kirtley, Muldoon, Rocky Ridge, Ammannsville, Holman, Dubina, Freyburg and Praha.
The power lines were to reach into Colorado County between Holman and Weimar and Lavaca County between Praha and Moravia. By November 1937, the new venture had a permanent name – Fayette Electric Cooperative, Inc. Adamcik became its first project superintendent.
At one point, work on staking the power lines ground to a halt when it was discovered that less than the mandated 300 farmers had paid their membership fee. Additional members were recruited and work continued.
By late October 1938, 38 transformers were hung and 150 homes were wired. It wasn’t long until a switch was thrown and, wonder of wonders, members along the first 50 miles of line in Fayette County had electricity on their farms for the first time.
In 2012, Fayette Electric Cooperative is celebrating its 75th year of service to its member-owners, who now number 9,257 in a territory that includes 2,762 miles of power lines.
1939 Board of Directors
Members of Fayette Electric Cooperative’s Board of Directors, elected at the second Annual Meeting of the Members on January 16, 1939, were, front row, left to right: Wallace Cherry, C. M. Janda, George Diers, Charles Friedrich and L. A. Giese. Back row, left to right: Tom Hinton, project superintendent, and Ed Moss, attorney.
The Power Wagon
Pictured parked outside the office and warehouse on North Main in La Grange is the first service truck purchased by Fayette Electric Cooperative from Meiner’s Motor Company at a cost of $688.50. It was a Dodge 1-ton truck and was used for hauling poles and other appliances to the projects.
Early Line Repairs
Linemen Vastine “Big Jawn” Janssen and Jerry Dusek are shown repairing a line in the early 1960s. Both dedicated employees, Janssen worked for the co-op for 56 years and Dusek retired after 35 years of service.
Leopold Fink, Killed in the Mexican War
by Sherie Knape
Leopold Fink was born in Wurttemberg, Germany on September 8, 1827. He came to Texas in 1840 and settled here in La Grange. In 1845, Texas became the 28th State of the United States of America. Though Texas was now officially part of the U.S., Mexico was not happy about this, so President Polk sent troops to the Texas-Mexico border to help protect Texas from any Mexican hostility. On May 13, 1846, the U.S. declared war on Mexico after an altercation on Texan soil. Although not everyone was happy about declaring war, the southern states led the way in volunteers. One in every 33 men in the southern states volunteered to fight, whereas only about one in every 1000 men in the Mid-Atlantic States volunteered. The northern states had even fewer volunteers with one in every 2500 volunteering. On June 15, 1847, Leopold enlisted as a blacksmith in Captain James Smith’s Company, 1st Texas Mounted Volunteers; although a month later, due to a technicality, his company was disbanded. Not willing to give up his service to the U.S. and Texas, he re-enlisted in Captain Jacob Robert’s Company F on August 12, 1847. Before Fink and his company could get to the border to fight the Mexicans, his regiment was detached and sent to the Pedernales River to patrol against raiding Indians in the area. After much of the Indian trouble had been taken care of, Fink and his regiment rejoined the company at Mier, Mexico. The company had crossed the Rio Grande and occupied Mier without much resistance, but causing much excitement. The Mexican army did not intervene, although guerillas and bands of raiders still caused frequent problems against the U.S. troops. While camped in the vicinity of Mier, they attended many “fiestas and fandangos, drinking and dancing with bright-eyed Mexican girls”. The company was to move on to Matamoras, Mexico and was waiting to depart until more U.S. troops arrived. On September 9, 1847, just a week before they were to leave, Leopold was killed by “accidental exchange of gunfire”. He was buried in a nearby field. His family, wanting a memorial for Leopold here in La Grange, placed a memorial in the Fink plot in the Old La Grange City Cemetery. The Fink family plot is a usual stop on the “Ghosts and Gravestones” Cemetery tour, which will be held on November 8, 2009.
First "Trains" Ever in Texas
by Stacy N. Sneed
The Flatonia Argus, 02-27-1887:
They were the first “Trains” ever had in Texas.
The Argus learns that the colored exodusters who left our town and vicinity last fall and winter for the purpose of settling in Wharton County are on their way back. Having no funds to settle railroad fare it is said they have adopted a novel expedient to get back. Someone during the winter, drove a large number of Mexican jackasses into Wharton County for sale and, and not being able to dispose of them at any price, turned them loose to forage for themselves.
The colored folks have captured the jacks, broke them gentle, and loading up with pots and pans, feather beds and the old women and babies on top, are coming back in a grand cavalcade. Happy Hollow, which has long had the appearance of a deserted city, is soon to be re-peopled.
Flood of ‘33, 1833 That Is
Edited by Gary E. McKee
John and Mary Rabb were members of Stephen F. Austin’s “Old 300” colonists who were the first legal settlers of Texas. John chose land north of La Grange along the Colorado River near his brother William, and William’s son, Andrew. The area where they arrived in 1822-1833, Mary later described as: “no house there then, nore nothing but a wilderness, not even a tree cut down to mark that place.” They “met two gentleman” (probably, Strap Buckner and William Powell), who led them to meet up with John’s brother, William, and they proceeded to build a home. The Indian “problem” caused them to move downstream to Egypt (near Wharton) for a while before returning to Rabb’s Prairie. Mary wrote her memories for her children, which later were published as Travels and Adventures in Texas in the 1820’s. This is an extract from her book that documents flooding in the area around future La Grange. I have added punctuation and interpreted her phonetic spelling.
“We built the mill in 1831, moved up in 32, then in 33 that high overflow come. I could see the water coming up. We stayed in the house until the water was over the floor. Me and some of the little ones had to be carried to the wagon, as the water was over a foot and a half deep in the yard. Then we had to hurry to get out to the hills [the rise that Schubert Road runs along in Rabb’s Prairie.] Then your Pa and a Frenchman by the name of Batiste hurried back to try to save our goods, our beds, and clothing. They got to the house and pulled things up in a cedar tree that was in the yard, not rite in front of the house [but] to one side. [The] cedar tree is [now] cut down. But when I go fishing, I visit that old stump and the place where the house use to be. After your pa and Batiste got the goods put up, they tried to go to your Uncle Andrew’s house which was about a half mile above on the river. They had to swim nearly all the way. Sometimes clinging to limbs and twigs of the tops of bushes your Pa got to the house but Batiste took the cramp and could not swim. He caught a cedar limb and pulled up on the tree and stayed all night. Your Pa made a hole in the roof of the house and went down on the upper floor there he found a cloak and a churn of cream that had been set up out of the water, so he had cream to drink and a cloak to cover him; but poor Batiste was in the cedar tree a swinging back and forth as the water would swell and heave against the tree every once and a while; your Pa would call to Batiste through the night to know if he was yet alive and if he still felt able to hold on to the tree, he would answer [he was] might[y] cold. As soon as daylight come your Uncle Andrew went to work to make a canoe, he worked hard all day to trying to get it done, so he could go and see what had become of your Pa and Batiste. Just before sundown we saw a vessel coming into Rabb’s Prairie, then going to towards the house. It was Mr. Castleman, he lived where Mr. Manton lives now, he went to the house and got your Pa and then went to the tree and got Batiste and brought them out of to the hills where we was; then we was all safe out of the overflow. When the water got down low enough Pa went back to the house and got our clothing and bed and everything out of the cedar tree and brought them out to the hill bluff [Indian Hill/Thomas’ Bluff] on the river. There your Pa wanted to settle.”
This was the first documentation of the Colorado River floods, the first of many. Later, another flood destroyed the structure of Rabb’s gristmill. The millstones survived and are on display in the Founders’ Park on the square in La Grange.
Photo Caption: Mary Crownover Rabb; from “John Rabb” by Victor C. Wegenhoft; Fayette County, Texas Heritage, Vol. II
Rabb, Mary Crownover. Travels and Adventures in Texas in the 1820’s; Texian Press, Waco, Texas; 1962
The Flood In Texas
by Connie F. Sneed
5 August 1869 Farmer’s Cabinet Paper:
The Flood in Texas - A correspondent writing from La Grange, Fayette County, Texas, gives an account of the recent disastrous flood on the Colorado River, by which the town of La Grange and the surrounding country were completely submerged. The writer says:
"Great crowds of women and children stood at the water’s edge, and saw their homes filled by the flood, and many of them swept away or turned over where they stood. Saturday found the town deluged, for on the square end in every store stood four or five feet of water. It was wholly deserted, and all the inhabitants had fled to the high grounds and hills in the northern and northeastern suburbs. Quantities of provisions were destroyed in the stores. At Chalk Bluffs, four miles above, on the river bank, the scene was terrible. For fifteen miles, as far as the eye could reach to the north, west, and south, the country was one unbroken sheet of water. Here and there, in the distance, among the clumps of oaks, might be seen the roofs of houses but yesterday occupied by prosperous planters, now filled by waters. Nearer, above and below, on to the south and eastward, the zigzag track of the river was marked by the rush of oaks and cottonwoods that had stood for years. Side by side with these, in wild confusion, floated houses and dead cattle.”
When the flood subsided houses were found turned over or swung across the streets, fences swept away, boxes, furniture and small houses scattered about the streets, and everything in confusion, while the slimy mud brought in by the flood covered the walls and floors of the dwellings and stores. The damage to the town is at least $100,000, while the injury to crops and the country is estimated at millions. The overflow has never been equaled in the Colorado within the history of Texas.
Flood of 1913by Edward F. Janecka
Floods have always been a problem along the Colorado. The most notable ones were the floods of 1869 and 1913. The flood of 1869 covered the entire square in La Grange. There is a permanent line marking the height of this flood between Prause's Meat Market and [the former] Man's D&Z Shop on Travis Street. The flood of 1913 missed the height of the 1869 flood by one inch but was considered more damaging. Newspaper reports from the Houston Post and the La Grange Journal tell of the horrendous problems that faced Fayette County and the people of La Grange.
December 4, 1913 The La Grange Journal reports:
"Early in the day (Thursday), La Grange residents living in the "flats" were packing up to due to a report from C. J. Von Rosenberg of Austin about the expected large rise of the Colorado River. The water rose about 20 inches an hour and by 11 a.m. was running down Water St. and crossing Colorado St. At 3:30 p.m. houses began washing away and the water was up to the I.X.L Livery stable (behind 103 N. Main), one block from the square. Rain continued to fall and at 7 p.m. water was on the square. Fifty people sought refuge in the courthouse where the water rose until 6 a.m. on the 5th, held for about an hour, and then began falling. The height of the flood was 4 feet on the Courthouse Square and nearly 3/4 of La Grange was under water. Water had reached as far as the stoop of the Opera House located on the corner of Colorado & Franklin Streets. By Friday midnight, the waters had receded to the Wm. McKinney residence, one block below the square westward".
"On the West Side of Rabb's Prairie is a hill covering about 25 to 35 acres (Indian Hill). During the flood, 225 people and 300 head of stock sought refuge there. Mr. Janacek stated that his house on the hill was only 135 yards from the river and 115 people were in his house. Early in the morning, the hill was surrounded by waterto the south and north 2 miles of water, to the east 1-1/2 miles, and he could not tell how many miles to the west. By 10:00 a.m. the little hill looked like a small island in a vast sea. The water did not recede until December 8th".
On December 5th the river reached a stage of 56 feet. The public square was covered with 4 feet of water. The Houston Post reported: "Most of the houses in the flat in the western part of the town (La Grange) have floated away on account of the strong current. No one has been able to venture out to ascertain what homes remain. Last evening two Negroes clinging to logs were seen floating down in the main stream. They called for help but no relief could be given. This afternoon the dead bodies of three Mexicans and two white men floated quickly through the streets and disappeared. No lives have been lost here and all refugees are being cared for in homes in the northern part of town. Much live stock, it is thought, has perished below here, and it is feared that many farmers living in Rabb's Prairie are marooned and suffering. During the night it rained and added to the gloominess of the situation". Disorder began to prevail in the afternoon. A mass meeting was held at the school building and a vigorous action plan was drafted to handle the situation in a systematic and energetic way. Police, saloon, health, labor and relief committees were named. If necessary saloons would close until normal conditions returned. The accessible streets were being patrolled and notice was given that all persons out after 10 o'clock without reasonable excuse would be locked up in the county jail.
Photo of the 1913 flood in La Grange, courtesy of the Fayette Heritage Museum and Archives
The 1913 Flood – Judge Roberts' Railroad Odyssey
by Gregory Walker
On the morning of Friday, December 5th, the flood waters crested at roughly 6 a.m. and slowly began to recede. The flood left behind not only destruction, but it also had isolated the city from the rest of the world. To add to the misery, a “whistling cold norther” blew in on the morning of Sunday, December 7th. District Judge Frank S. Roberts was not about to let the interruption to rail service stop his return to La Grange. Judge Roberts had been in Waco during the week of the flood and afterwards needed to travel from his home in Lockhart to La Grange for the District Court session. He told his story in a letter to his wife, which partially appeared in the Lockhart Register, dated December 19, 1913.
“Well, when I left home Monday [December 8] I walked to Plum Creek bridge [one mile north of Lockhart] and of course the train had gone, but luckily R. Hilbut, superintendent Western Union, was there waiting for his motor hand car to be carried around via dirt road to a crossing on east side. The car arrived at about 4:30 and thereafter we sped along the track arriving at Smithville 6:30 p. m.”
The “motor hand car” that they rode is also known as a “speeder.” These were first introduced in 1896 and were built to carry two persons. There was a YMCA in Smithville where railroad workers stayed. It is likely that Judge Roberts and R. Hilbut spent the night there. Judge Roberts continues the story:
“He received orders to go south next morning on inspection and repair to the Brazos river and he invited me to ride with him as far as LaGrange. I gladly accepted, we got up at 5 a. m. Tuesday, oiled up the car and left for LaGrange. At West Point the track was still in bad condition for half a mile, and we had to walk and push the car part of the way, but finally got by and on to the Colorado river where we had to get off and again walk and push the car over the rough track, but the bridge was not seriously damaged, and at 8:30 a. m. we had breakfast at the Lester [Hotel]. In addition to this being the earliest and most thrilling ride I ever took, I think it was the coldest, but so far suffered no ill effects from the trip.”
The railroad bridge at La Grange survived the flood, but it must have suffered some damage. The La Grange Journal reported that bridge repairs had been completed by Thursday, December 11th.
The pile driver and working crew, of the Katy [Missouri Kansas and Texas] returned to Smithville Thursday, having repaired the river bridge of the company at this point. Work was begun as quickly as possible, and no time was lost, in fact darkness and midnight hours were ignored. Trains are now passing over the bridge.”
Other railroad bridges must have fared much worse, based on the following notice in the La Grange Journal on December 25th, 1913:
“No runs are made over the LaGrange branch of the Southern Pacific railroad [to Glidden], as yet, and will not be for several weeks. The Katy is running trains daily and they reach here when it is possible, all schedules having been abolished for the present on account of the many washouts and other damage as the result of the flood. Mail going to Winchester is carried up to Waco and sent down by the Sap [San Antonio and Aransas Pass], and mail sent to Weimar and other points west on the Southern Pacific is sent by way of the Sap to Flatonia.”
Based on a 1918 map showing the rail lines through Fayette County, the railroad bridges south of Winchester, north of Glidden and east of Columbus must still have been impassable at that time.
Photo caption: Two-person Railroad Speeder; photo courtesy of Ryan Kaldari, public domain
Judge Frank S. Roberts' Account of the 1913 Flood, Fayette Heritage Museum and Archives, LG 1983.26.89
Map of Fayette County showing Common School Districts, 1918, Fayette Heritage Museum & Archives, MAP 33 1994.79.1
Speeder, article and photo on Wikipedia web site
The La Grange Journal, Vol. 34, Issue 51, December 18, 1913 and Vol. 34, Issue 52, December 25, 1913
The Bryan Daily Eagle, Vol. XIX, No. 11, December 6, 1913
Wood, W. O., The Coming of the Railroads to Fayette County, Footprints of Fayette online
Wood, W. O., Email correspondence, May 6, 2018
The 1913 Flood – Relief and Recovery
by Gregory Walker
The flood waters in La Grange reached their crest and began to slowly recede the morning of Friday, December 5th, 1913. A report by an anonymous citizen tells how the population reacted:
When the water had reached its highest point on Friday the north bank of the Colorado River was lined with crowds of people, watching the roaming ocean of water. In all directions as far as the eye could reach, save to the south where stood the stern and watchful Bluff, the restless waters swept and danced. It was a big day's outing for some; a sad day for those whose homes were gone; a relief to those who barely got out of their homes in time the evening before. But there were men who felt that problems would arise to be solved; that when the waters receded the waste and destruction would be laid bare and that unless firm hold was taken of the situation confusion and trouble would result. Already the night before, there was some drunkenness, some pistol shooting, some hollering, some signs of rowdyism in its incipiency among the irresponsible part of our citizenship, not so much, but enough to make men think.
That afternoon at 3 o'clock a body of citizens, such as were at liberty, for many were marooned in the business section of town (among them our Mayor) met at the school house and organized a Citizen's Committee to take charge of the situation. Four main committees were immediately named and the bulletin board–the daily newspaper those days–was first placed at the Corner Hotel, situated at the water's edge. Police. Labor. Sanitation and Relief.
This was only the first of a series of meetings held each evening from December, 5th through December 22nd. The meetings were styled “Mass Meeting of the Citizens of La Grange” and George E. Lenert was chairman.
The second meeting was held at 7 P.M. on Saturday, December 6th. By that time, a number of steps had already been taken. The Relief Committee, chaired by Rev. Haygood, had already met in the Sample Room of the Lester Hotel, which was designated Headquarters for the relief efforts. It established several subcommittees, the most notable being the “Investigating Committee” chaired by Miss Siddie Robson and made up of several other women. This subcommittee was tasked with taking requests for aid, “investigating” the requests and giving out what was needed. Their main focus in those dreary days of December was the need for clothing.
The Police committee, chaired by Mr. Amzi Bradshaw, wasted no time in establishing a 10 P.M. curfew and appointing a group of citizens to assist the police in patrolling the city, both day and night. The city Mayor also appointed two additional officers to the police force.
The Sanitation committee under City Health Officer Dr. Charles Hoch had already established and posted the following sanitation measures:
1. That every house that has been in or under water be disinfected with sulphur before moving into it.
2. That all drinking water be boiled before using.
3. That all standing water be drained where possible.
4. That all ground surface about and under houses in the overflowed district be disinfected with lime.
5. That all standing water that cannot be drained be oiled with Braumont or coal oil.”
An additional committee had also been created. The Saloon committee under Joe Brown requested that all saloons and the Casino Hall remain closed until 6 A.M. on Tuesday morning, December 9th. There was some dissension. Mr. G. A. Heilig protested that the Casino Hall could not be closed to its members by the Saloon committee because it was a “family affair.” He was ruled out of order and told to take up his objection with the Saloon committee. Apparently, Mr. Heilig was persuaded to go along because in the coming days the saloons and the Casino Hall remained closed.
It did not take long for people to begin to clean out their houses. As Dr. Charles Hoch, describes:
As soon as the water receded the clean-up began. Any of those in the overflowed district got into houses while the water was still inside so that they could cleanup with the river water and make it take with it some of the mud that it had brought. The great problem of help was so well handled by the Labor Committee that for once one could get all the assistance needed to clean up.
By the third meeting of the Citizens Committee on Sunday, December 7th, the Relief Committee reported that it was now organized and had distributed a circular around the city offering assistance to anyone in need. Chairman Lenert reported that 160 sacks of lime had arrived from Fayetteville and that Mr. Heinsohn of Fayetteville refused payment for the lime.
Mayor Speckels reported that the City Council had met to organize street cleanup: “The Street Committee had engaged wagons for the morrow to collect trash, dead animals, etc. and that it would be carted to the City Gravel pit near the County Poor Farm and incinerated.”
The problem of street and trash clean-up would be a continuing topic of discussion. At one point it was suggested that all garbage be hauled to the central span of the river bridge and dumped into the river, but that seems not to have been done. Again Dr. Charles Hoch tells the story:
Every available wagon was put to hauling garbage to the city dump. There was so much of this garbage that the old city dumping ground near the river was soon overflowing and another had to be secured. The old gravel pit near the S. P. [Southern Pacific] tracks was selected for this purpose and ere the dumping was finished this too looked mighty full. All dead carcasses were hauled out near the pit and burned and it was learned just how much fuel was required to burn up a piece of flesh as big as a cow.
In time, the committee meetings became more routine. The Saloon Committee was disbanded and the Health Committee had no report. The Police Committee's standard report was “that everything was rocking along smoothly, in the usual way.”
The Relief Committee went about its work distributing groceries, tents and especially clothing. Six boxes of clothes were received from Schulenburg and ferried across the river. Yoakum sent ten boxes and Flatonia another four boxes. Just two weeks after the flood, the final accounting stood at 5159 pieces of apparel received, 4984 pieces given out, and 175 pieces on hand.
As the city recovered and again began to prosper, the memory of those difficult days lingered and was passed on as family stories from one generation to the next. Suzanne White describes the story she heard as a child about her grandmother Emilie Meinen.
When I was growing up, every Christmas my aunts recalled the dismal one they experienced in 1913 when they lived on the banks of the Colorado River in La Grange, Texas.
Home alone with their mother, a man galloped up on horseback shouting to get out of their house to higher ground immediately! The Colorado River was flooding!
Pregnant with her seventh child, Nanny quickly gathered her six children and evacuated just in time to turn and see their house encroached upon and consumed by the river: It and all their belongings floated away before their very eyes.
They celebrated Christmas that year living in another family’s garage with nothing left to their name but the clothes they had on when they escaped - and a small juniper Christmas tree with only apples for decoration, one for each child’s gift.
Years later when they asked what that Christmas had been like for her, Nanny simply responded: "It was okay. I still had all my children and that was all that really mattered."
View of the 1913 flood from the hill on North Washington Street; photo courtesy of the Fayette Heritage Museum and Archives
Anonymous. Flood Relief Thank You Speech to Schulenburg, Fayette Heritage Museum and Archives, LG 1983.26.60.
Hoch, Charles, M.D. The December Flood of 1913 at La Grange; Fayette Heritage Museum and Archives, 1983.26.83
Mass Meeting of the Citizens of La Grange, minutes from December 6, to December 22, 1913, Fayette Heritage Museum and Archives, LG 1986.26.33 through 1986.26.57.
White, Suzanne. The 3 R’s + 1: The Principles that Underpin My Ancestors’ and Heirs’ Lives,DAR essay, 2017-2018, Fayette Heritage Museum and Archives, 2018.22.
Poet, Teacher, Musicianby Helen Trnovsky Mikus
Sonja Fojtik was born in Lufkin, Texas on December 16, 1937, the daughter of Dr. Joseph and Florence (Kaderka) Fojtik. At the age of three, she could read, write, and play the piano and started composing poetry at the age of five. When she was eight, her poems, "Chris and Lena" and "My Kitten", were published in the National Children's magazines, Wee Wisdom and Story Parade. Two years later, she was one of eight national first place winners in the Christmas carol contest, sponsored by Collier's Magazine. Fred Waring and his Pennsylvanians played her carol over the NBC network, in December of 1948.
While attending Stephen F. Austin State College, she was a member of Alpha Chi and Kappa Delta Pi. In 1958, she received her Bachelor of Arts degree. In 1960, she began teaching Spanish, German and French at S.F.A.S.C. She also spoke Czech, Russian, and Danish. After one year of teaching, she resigned, and moved to her parent's home in Fayetteville. There, she began working towards a Masters of Arts Degree, with her thesis being on Southwestern Poetry.
Sonja was equally gifted as a musician and declined an offer to perform as a pianist with a worldwide symphony tour. She chose to remain with her parents on their farm near Fayetteville.
She was a member of th American Poetry League, and listed as a poet and a musician in the Worlds's Who's Who of Poetry.
While living in Fayetteville, she was administrative assistant to Mrs. Lilith Lorraine, Director of Avalon Foundation, and later became the editor's assistant to Vernon Payne, Editor of Cyclo Flame a Poetry magazine. She produced many poems that were published in such diverse publications as the Brenham Banner Press and the Anthology of American Poetry.
In her late twenties, Sonja developed a heart condition, which should have slowed her life style. But her love of poetry drove her to keep traveling and promoting the Poetry Society of Texas. On January 10, 1968, Sonja died of a heart attack at her home in Fayetteville.
Caleb Forsheyby Gary E. McKee
The Texas Military Institute in Rutersville was formed in 1856 from the Rutersville College founded in 1840. The superintendent of TMI was a unique man named Caleb Goldsmith Forshey.
Forshey was born in 1812, in Pennsylvania and attended college and the West Point Military Academy. He was the professor of mathematics and civil engineering in Mississippi for two years before taking various engineering jobs on the Mississippi River. He developed one of the first hydrological stations that measured river flow for the government. In 1853, Forshey moved to Texas to become the chief design engineer for a railroad where he designed the first bridge that connected Galveston Island to the mainland. In 1855, he founded the Texas Military Institute in Galveston.
In his diary, he mentions that a group of men representing Rutersville College asked his views on moving TMI to Rutersville. Forshey was agreeable, as his diary noted: "This day I have completed and signed a contract with the Board of Trustees of Rutersville College, engaging to lease that institution for 7 years and remove my school thither..."
Three months into the new term at TMI of Rutersville, Forshey noted he had 58 cadets and "we have made such progress in study as is to me very satisfactory."
In October of 1858, Forshey noted that German, Zoology, Roads and Railroads, and Mechanics have been added to the curriculum and that the cadets had cornbread, cold beef, peach preserves, fresh butter, coffee and water for supper.
Discipline at the school was strict. Forshey wrote that "Cadet Goodman was found absent from Quarters between tattoo and reveille and is hereby sentenced to compulsory resignation without honorable discharge."
Astrology was another passion of Forshey and in 1859, a magnificent astral display was seen across the state of Texas that Forshey sketched and documented. His findings help confirm the existence of solar flares. His cadets also did astral mapping, which was unheard of in the "wilds of Texas." Plant biology was another interest and while at Rutersville he and his cadets collected specimens for the Smithsonian Institute.
With the coming of the Civil War in 1861, Forshey sent his cadets off to war, closed TMI, and joined the Engineering Corps of the Confederacy. His design of the "cotton clads" steamboats enabled the recapture of Galveston from the Union. The numerous forts along the Texas coast were also the work of Forshey along with writing three popular Civil War songs.
After the war, Forshey helped design railroad systems and the development of Galveston Bay for commercial use. Caleb Forshey left behind a legacy in Texas when he passed away in 1881.
Texian Pride in 1861
by Gary E. McKee
Caleb G. Forshey was the director of the Texas Military Institute in Rutersville in the 1850s and early 1860s (see previous Footprints article). After secession from the Union and prior to admission to the Confederacy, Louisiana declared itself an independent republic and designed a new flag. Forshey’s pride in the great state of Texas, caused him to write the following letter on February 22, 1861:
Louisiana flag in 1860
"[To] Hon. H. K. Elgee, Dear Sir, From the public prints I infer that the flag, recently adopted is the national flag of Louisiana, was designed chiefly by yourself; you will there for pardon the liberty I take in addressing you.
"My object is to call your attention, however late, to the striking resemblance of the colors and designs you have adopted to the national flag of Texas, and to suggest whether this resemblance is not calculated to produce awkward, and perhaps serious mistakes; and at the same time, to claim for this State a priority in the adoption of her flag so great as to give her a prescriptive title on land and sea."
Forshey then gave an accurate history of the development of the Texian flag that resulted into what flies proudly across the Lone Star state. He continues: "For example, the Texas Military Institute flag, used by the cadets on special occasions, was made with scrupulous accuracy by Texian girls, and presented to them on the 21st of April 1857 at the celebration of the anniversary of the battle of San Jacinto. Probably no more exquisitely wrought banner, or one of more tasteful beauty, ever bore the Lone Star in Texas or elsewhere. It bears the large white star of five points in the center of the blue field, with thirteen small stars forming a circle round it, and thirteen stripes of red and white, forming the body of the flag. We should surrender it with great reluctance, for we have been educating Texan youth to do and to dare for their country beneath its folds; and as much as we respect our noble neighbor, the chivalrous Louisiana, we cannot consent to surrender her our colors, but must claim them as our own by prescription and by affection.
"In conclusion … I would remark that the Lone Star has...been used as a banner of Revolution..." Forshey goes on to intimate that the Louisiana flag was a product of the Florida Revolution and others. He eloquently states that this "...wandering Revolutionary Star is, we respectively urge, no longer liable to national appropriation. It finished its sublimest achievement when it conquered for freedom the vast and fertile empire of Texas. It was fit, in the highest sense, that here it should find its rest, and here dispense its perennial lustre upon the banner that floats over its noblest conquest."
This flag was recently acquired from the state of Texas by the Confederate Museum in New Orleans. A description of its' design theory is that the thirteen stripes honors to those who rose up in 1776 against the British to protect the rights and liberties of the people. The alternating stripes of blue, white, and red pay tribute to the French influence in Louisiana. The area in upper left quarter are red and yellow in honor of the Spanish heritage. The single star “cannot fail to remind you that Louisiana has arisen to take her place in the political firmament.” The author had seen this flag and personally sees no resemblance to any Texas flag, excepting, the Texas Navy flag, as even the star is cocked at an angle.
The response to his letter, if any has been buried in the business of war. But the Fayette County man's Texian pride is indisputable. Forshey went on to supervise the construction of coastal fortifications in Texas during the war.
Walter P. Freytag
Fayette County Historian
By Josephine White
My memories of Mr. Walter Freytag go back to the 1950s. Mr. Freytag was a fine historian. When he was doing much of his research, it was during the 1930s as Texas was preparing for its centennial. He was working with a woman named Sue Ragsdale Diggle, a descendant of the Ragsdale family from the Plum/West Point area of Fayette County. She was kin to many of the pioneer families of Fayette County, including the Scallorn family. Mrs. Diggle spent considerable time in the Archives in Austin where Mr. Kemp and other historians were researching San Jacinto veterans and other works for the Texas Centennial. Mr. Freytag was searching through records in the Fayette County Courthouse, and he and Mrs. Diggle collaborated their work. His files contain much correspondence between him and Mrs. Diggle. At the time Mr. Freytag was doing his research, the courthouse records were intact, and he was given access to records that are no longer open to the public.
My maternal grandmother was Alameda Josephine Scallorn. My mother’s family knew little of her background. They did know that she had been born in Fayette County, TX, and that her father’s name was George Scallorn. They thought that George Scallorn had been born in Georgia and that he was a graduate of Yale University.
In 1950, we were living in San Antonio. On a family vacation, we visited the San Jacinto Monument, where I saw the name of John Wesley Scallorn on the monument. When we got back to San Antonio where my mother was also living, I asked her who this Scallorn was. My mother said that she thought he was kin, but she wasn’t sure how.
In the late 1950s my family was living in Alice, Texas. While on another vacation, we came through La Grange and visited Monument Hill State Park. On the crypt, I again saw the name of John Wesley Scallorn. (By that time I had learned that my mother and her family knew little of their family history, and what they had told me about other family lines was usually incorrect, so I decided to do a little investigating myself on John Wesley Scallorn).
We went to the courthouse and an elderly gentleman, Mr. Kubena, was the county clerk. I had been told that he knew everything recorded in the courthouse, and he graciously spoke with me. When I told him that I wanted to research the Scallorn line, he told me that the courthouse had never burned, that all the records were there, and that I was welcome to look at anything I wanted to see. Then he suggested that if I wanted to save time, I should visit Mr. Walter Freytag, the Postmaster. He said that Mr. Freytag had already done extensive research on the men who were buried in the tomb on Monument Hill.
We went to the post office and I asked to see Mr. Freytag. He was in his office and invited me to come in. I told him that my grandmother had been born in Fayette County. He asked who she was? I told him, “Alameda Josephine Scallorn”. He immediately said, “And yes, she is the daughter of George W. Scallorn, the only son of that man up on the hill. Doesn’t your family know this?” He just couldn’t believe that my family didn’t know their Scallorn history. He said that his family didn’t get to Texas until later and would have been so proud to have had an ancestor who fought in the Texas Revolution.
Mr. Freytag opened his filing cabinet and began to pull out papers. There were no copy machines at that time. Mr. Freytag had many extra carbon copies of the research he had done and typed from his courthouse notes. He kindly gave me numerous copies. Then when he didn’t have a copy, he entrusted me with his originals which I took home and retyped and then promptly returned his originals. This was the true beginning of my love of genealogy. George W. Scallorn was not born in Georgia, he was born in Fayette County, Texas in 1840. He was not a Yale graduate. He attended Baylor University when it was still at Independence, Texas before it was moved to Waco.
Mr. Freytag told me that the reason he had done so much research on the Scallorn family was because with the two Scallorn brothers, Stephen and William, both married to McClure sisters and with each having about ten children (double cousins), that everywhere he looked, he kept running into Scallorns mixed with other families. He said that he decided he had to research those lines so that he could keep things straight.
Mr. Freytag did tell me that the research he was doing was for the purpose of writing a book and that he planned to give his research papers to the Barker Library in Austin. It is Fayette County’s good fortune that he changed his mind and instead gave his papers to our local library.
Editor’s Addendum: Walter P. Freytag (1909-1990) will go down in history as one of the foremost citizens and historians of Fayette County. His love of history led him to do a great deal of research on the history of Fayette County and its citizens, most of which can be found in the Fayette Heritage Archives in La Grange. He did extensive genealogical research, mapped the Fayette County cemeteries with the help of Joe Cole, did research for historical markers, edited and published the “Reminiscences of Julia Lee Sinks”, the first written history of the county, and gave many speeches on the county’s history. He also served as the chairperson of the Fayette County Historical Commission.
He moved his family from Flatonia to La Grange in 1938 after being elected County Superintendent, the youngest man in Texas to attain that achievement. He was given the unpopular job of consolidating the 101 rural schools in the county into seven larger more efficient school districts, which required bussing of students.
He later became the head of the Fayette County Vocational Agricultural School, the owner-publisher of the La Grange Journal and was the mayor of La Grange from 1947 – 1949. Many of the city services were established during his term, as well as the library board. After his term as mayor, he became the postmaster of La Grange from 1949 to 1973, during which time he was appointed the Section Center Manager. He was one of the longest-serving postmasters in the state.
Mr. Freytag devoted a lifetime researching, documenting and collecting data on the history of the county with the intent to publish a book that was never written. However, his efforts were not in vain. Much of his research was used in the Fayette County, Texas Heritage history book, published in 1996. His research has also been used in various other historical projects, all of which have provided us with a lasting legacy for future generations to be able to appreciate his love of history and our county.
Photo of Walter P. Freytag is courtesy of the Fayette Heritage Museum & Archives
Funeral Practices and Traditions of the Past
by Carolyn Heinsohn
19th century funeral in Praha, TX
Courtesy: TCHCC collection
Traditions evolve throughout the years as time and changes associated with modern techniques and advancements influence their continuance or disappearance. The traditions associated with death and funerals have drastically changed since our immigrant ancestors first set foot on Texas soil. Some of their superstitious practices that were brought with them disappeared when greater knowledge provided explanations and insights to negate their earlier erroneous beliefs.
In the early days, there were no hospitals in the rural areas. Hospitals were generally located in larger towns, which were often inaccessable due to distance and lack of transportation. Many people could not afford the luxury of hospital care even if one was available. So people died at home in spite of the best care that their family or the local country doctor could give them. There were no diagnostic tests, antibiotics or immunizations against childhood diseases, many of which caused multiple deaths in individual families. Treatments were simple, medications were limited, and sanitation was poor. Anesthesia was primitive, and surgical procedures frequently resulted in hemorrhaging and post-surgical infections.
The causative factors of certain infections and preventative measures for controlling contagious diseases were not yet known, so epidemics wiped out large numbers of people in short spans of time. The mortality rate for infants and children was very high, and the lifespan for adults was shorter than today. Women frequently died in childbirth, and frail or premature infants did not survive. Suicides were common for adult men, who became distraught and depressed when they were faced with crop failures and no way to support and feed their families. The chances of losing several family members at close intervals were far greater than today.
There were no professional gravediggers, embalmers or funeral parlors in the rural areas of Texas in the 19th century. Funeral parlors did not appear in the smaller towns until the 1920s or later. When someone died, the church bells rang to alert the area residents that a death had occurred. Several neighbors would volunteer to dig the grave for no pay. A neighbor would oftentimes take a family member to get a coffin. Sometimes, a carpenter was hired to construct a coffin, or a business like a hardware or furniture store might have coffins for sale. If not, then the neighbors would build one, and the ladies would attend to lining the coffin. Since there were no embalmers in the early days, the deceased would be buried as soon as possible after death. Someone went by horseback to inform family and friends about the death and funeral.
The body was cleaned and dressed by family members and placed in the coffin, which was usually set on the floor in the family parlor for viewing. Some communities eventually had an undertaker, whose primary business was being a cabinet or furniture maker. He either prepared the body for burial at home, or he may have had a full body-length transport basket to carry the body to a central business establishment, where he would do the preparations for burial.
Black crepe fabric or black ribbons were oftentimes hung in some fashion on the front door of the home or business of the deceased. Curtains would be closed, and clocks would be stopped at the time of death. Mirrors would sometimes be covered with black cloth, because of the superstition that if not covered, the soul of the departed could get trapped in the mirror and not be able to “cross over”. Another tradition based on a superstition was the turning of family photographs face-down or against the wall to prevent any of the close relatives and friends from being possessed by the spirit of the deceased.
Family and friends came to the house and brought flowers, if available, from their yards or fields. Flowers, such as marigolds with their strong fragrance, and candles were used to mask unpleasant odors before embalming. Now flowers are an expression of sympathy without words.
Members of the family conducted a prayer vigil and took turns staying with the body at all times – this was called a “wake”, which is a social rite that highlights the idea that the loss of the deceased as one of a social group affects that group as a whole. Therefore, the body was “watched” and “guarded”, even during the night. The “guards” had to stay alert and awake, so the ritual’s name became a “wake”. That rite has evolved into a viewing at a funeral home and is mostly associated with the social interactions accompanying a funeral.
Another old tradition was having a photograph made of the deceased person in a coffin. Photography was like magic in the second half of the 19th century and early 20th century, so keeping an image was a way to remember the person. Sometimes, the photographs show all of the family members gathered around the coffin or casket. This tradition evolved from having post-mortem portraits or death masks made.
the funeral of Joe R. Sassin who died in World War I and buried in Dubina – 1918. Courtesy of Ed Janecka
Usually, a neighbor or friend was asked to transport the deceased from the home to the church. In the 19th century, the body was carried out of the house feet first “to prevent the spirit from looking back into the house and beckoning another member of the family to follow him”.
A spring wagon was generally preferred over a farm wagon for transportation of a body for the funeral procession from the house to the church or cemetery, because the ride was less bumpy. If the deceased was Catholic, there would be a funeral Mass at the church. The church bells began to toll as the procession neared the church. Then after the Mass, the bells again tolled as the pallbearers or wagon carried the coffin to the cemetery. Traditionally, non-Catholics were taken from the house directly to the cemetery, where a minister, lay person or lodge president would perform a graveside service and give the eulogy.
The coffin would be lowered into the grave with ropes, and everyone near the grave would pick up a small handful of freshly-dug dirt from the grave and throw it onto the coffin, signifying “from dust thou came and to dust thou shall return”. The flowers brought to the house by visitors were taken to the cemetery and placed on top of the grave. Afterwards, everyone was invited to return to the home for a meal and visiting.
In many of the older Christian cemeteries, most of the graves are oriented so that the bodies lie with their heads to the west and their feet to the east, because of the belief that the final summons to Judgment will come from the east.
When children and teenagers died, girls in attendance would often dress in white, signifying the innocence of childhood and the deceased person’s definite eternity in heaven. White clothing and a white coffin were frequently used for the funeral of a child. It was also common for children to be buried together in a designated area in a cemetery, instead of with the other members of the family.
There are also stories about young brides-to-be, who died before they were married, being buried in their wedding dresses. The family of the deceased would be in mourning for a year, during which time, the women and girls of the family would only wear black clothing in public.
Obituaries and eulogies have also changed throughout the years. It was common in the past to describe one’s life and passing with flowery language, poetry and tributes written by close friends. Epitaphs on tombstones were lengthier, oftentimes including poems and the place of origin for first generation immigrants, who still had emotional ties to their homeland. Ornate statuary, symbols associated with death and eternity and lodge insignia were often added to tombstones to make them more personal.
The funeral industry did not emerge until after the Civil War when the process of embalming was developed by a physician who used formaldehyde to preserve the bodies of dead Civil War soldiers before they were sent home. Embalming then became more of a standard practice in the developed urban areas in the late 19th century; however, the process was performed by embalming surgeons. By the beginning of the 20th century, embalming and mortuary schools opened, and licensing of the practice was established. An embalmer might have to serve an area that comprised several counties, and oftentimes he practiced his skill in the homes where the deaths occurred. Embalming was instrumental in prolonging the time between the death and the burial, allowing more persons to be notified and to travel to attend the funeral.
Eventually, undertakers were able to be licensed to be embalmers, which changed the industry significantly. August W. Koenig of La Grange received his embalmer’s license in 1909 and became the first embalmer for undertakers in Fayette, Colorado and Austin Counties. He and his son, Gilbert, built the Koenig Funeral Home in La Grange in 1936. At that time, it was known as the most modern and complete funeral home in Central Texas.
Later, as more funeral homes were established in the 20th century, caskets replaced coffins. The difference in coffins and caskets are basically in their shape and construction. Coffins were six-sided with narrower head and foot spaces and wider shoulder spaces. They had screw-on full-length lids, sometimes with glass plates and wooden covers over the head, allowing for viewing of the faces of the deceased. Caskets are rectangular with two-part hinged lids that are generally sealed with rubber gaskets and only opened half-way for viewing.
Bereaved families eventually began to see the value of the entire “package” offered by funeral homes, where all of the necessities associated with the funeral and burial were assumed by the funeral home staff, relieving the family from those duties. At first, undertakers lived in the funeral homes, and their families assisted in operating the businesses. Eventually that practice changed, and a staff of professionals took over various duties, which included make-up and hair styling; submitting obituaries to the newspapers and radio stations; taking care of death certificates and burial insurance policies; arrangements for church, funeral home and military services; memorial videos, grave digging, transportation of the body by hearse, as well as graveside services.
Death is a part of life, and memorializing our deceased loved ones has been a tradition since the beginning of mankind. However, the ways of paying tribute to the dead are as varied as the number of ethnic and religious groups throughout the world, all of whom have developed their own unique funeral customs.
Bauer, Betty and Mike Meismer. “Koenig Funeral Home – La Grange, TX”; Fayette County, Texas Heritage, Vol. 1, Curtis Media, 1996
Polk, Mary. “I Remember….”; self-published, 1971
Recollections of family traditions and stories by Carolyn Heinsohn
Furniture Making in Fayette Countyby Arnold Romberg
Early settlers in Fayette County had to be self-sufficient in many ways. Distances, the difficulties of travel and communication, and the modest availability of cash all limited the import of manufactured products. In the later decades of the 19th century, the arrival of the railroad and the growth of towns led to an increasing amount of trade. Nevertheless, in rural areas such as Fayette County, most people bought only what they couldn't grow, make or trade for.
Texas Furniture - The Cabinet Makers and Their Work 1840-1880, by Lonn Taylor and David Warren (copy in the Fayette Public Library) says that the lower Brazos-Colorado area was one of the centers of German cabinetmakers.
Bernhard Romberg, born in Germany in 1841, came to Texas with his parents and five siblings in 1847. The family settled first on a farm on the San Bernard River, near Cat Spring, but five years later moved to better land on the Navidad in Fayette County.
Bernhard probably learned basic woodworking from his father. By his late twenties he was well established as a furniture maker. Taylor and Warren refer to a "windmill-powered chair factory", but Bernard would probably have been amused to hear it called a factory. He probably called it his workshop. Many things were made there besides chairs, and probably many besides furniture. Surviving products of the workshop on the Navidad include a high chair belonging to the Tiedt family in Fayette County and a high secretary, with drawers, a cabinet, and a pull-down desktop.
He did develop a personal style. His page in Texas Furniture shows a rawhide-bottomed chair, one of a set that was a wedding present to his youngest brother, Julius. The chair, made of mulberry wood, has a decorative top slat. His style is recognizable by Texas furniture experts - chairs have been recently offered for sale identified as Romberg chairs, based on minor characteristics. Many of his descendants have one or more of his chairs that have been handed down in the family, so he must have produced a considerable quantity of them over his working life, and provided many of them to relatives in addition to selling them.
The windmill that supplied the motive power for the workshop was a local landmark. It was about sixty feet high, with large canvas sails, more like a European windmill than the windmills still seen around the countryside. Wind power drove chair leg lathes and a large circular saw. The blade was the only metal part of the saw.
German Settlers in Fayette Countyby Bob Heinsohn
Friedrich Ernst and Charles Fordtran, who settled in Austin's Colony, promoted the German settlements of south central Texas, including Fayette County. Ernst founded the town of Industry in 1838. Responding to their favorable letters about Texas, hundreds of German immigrants seeking personal, political and religious liberties came to Austin's Colony, spilling over in to eastern Fayette County before it was organized. Some of the early German families who arrived in the Industry/Cat Spring area included Ludwig von Roeder, F. W. Grassmeyer, Karl and Marcus Amsler, Robert and Louis Kleberg, Jacob Wolters and Joseph Biegel, who founded Biegel's Settlement in Fayette County in 1832. The town of Biegel, which was the first German settlement in the county and the second in the state, was not laid out until several years later. The first German landowner in Fayette County was F. W. Grassmeyer, who was granted a league of land in 1831, one fourth of which was in Fayette County.
Some of the early German settlers fought in the battle for Texas Independence in 1836. They included Joseph Ehlinger, Christian Wertzner, Joseph Biegel, F. W. Grassmeyer and others. They believed in having their freedoms, so were willing to fight for their new homeland.
By 1837, houses were beginning to be built on the eastern bank of the Colorado River on John H. Moore's property, which would become the City of La Grange. When a group of German immigrants, who wanted to settle in Bexar County, could not cross the river due to high water, Moore offered them lots in the city. They accepted, so from that time the German character has been preserved in the city.
In 1842, the Adelsverein or Society for the Protection of German Immigrants was organized by a group of German noblemen. A representative of the society, Count Boos-Waldeck, bought the W. H. Jack League in eastern Fayette County in 1843. His plantation was named Nassau. A settlement grew up around the plantation.
The earliest settlers who came with the Adelsverein arrived in the port of Indianola. Several thousand were headed for New Braunfels and Fredericksburg. However, due to bad weather, sickness and a lack of food, many died. Also, the Adelsverein was almost bankrupt. Other immigrants who arrived later in Galveston heard about the situation and changed their plans, many choosing to settle in Fayette County.
One of the most prominent immigrants who settled near La Grange was Heinrich L. Kreische. The 600 acres of land that he bought on the Bluff overlooked the growing town of La Grange and the Colorado River. Being a skilled stonemason, he not only built his three-story home, but also the third courthouse in La Grange, the jail, several businesses and homes, and a brewery near his home that he and his family operated. By the 1870's, his brewery was the third largest in the state. He also operated a ferry across the river, so his beer could be sold in local saloons, including his own. He and his wife had six children, none of whom ever married.
The German immigrants of Fayette County were mainly Lutheran. German Lutherans predominantly settled La Grange, Biegel, Round Top and Rutersville. The most successful effort of the early Lutherans to establish a congregation was in Round Top, where Rev. Adam Neuthard taught school from 1861-1873 and preached for forty years. There were some German Catholics, mostly from Westphalia, who settled in the Ross Prairie. Live Oak Hill and High Hill areas.
Since Germans love to sing and dance, they organized a number of singing societies in the county. They also founded several bands, including the Schumann Band from Waldeck, the Alber's Band, and later Blume's Orchestra and the Lindemann Band. They organized shooting clubs called "Schuetzenverein" and the "Turnverein", which promoted comradeship and physical fitness. Fraternal organizations were popular in German communities. After the Sons of Hermann organization was founded in 1860, there were eight lodges in Fayette County, most of them over 100 years old.
Germans have contributed much to the growth and development of Fayette County. Their efficient methods of farming have helped with the economy. Besides farmers, there were tradesmen, craftsmen, merchants, physicians, lawyers, ministers, teachers and city and county officials. There were also Germans in Fayette County who were elected to the State Legislature, such as A. E. Falke, John C. Speckels, and Robert Zapp.
The German language is still being taught in our schools. La Grange has a German Sister City and a chapter of the Texas German Society. The German influence can still be seen throughout the county in architectural styles, road signs, business names and festivals.
Robert Addison Gillespie
From La Grange Merchant to Texas Hero
by Eva Gillespie
Robert Addison “Ad” Gillespie was born June 12, 1815, in Blount County, Tennessee, one of three sons of Robert Gillespie and his wife Patsy (Houston) Gillespie. By the time he was twenty-two years old, he and his brothers, James Houston and Matthew Milton had moved to Texas. In January 1838, they formed a mercantile and land partnership in Matagorda. James furnished the capital for the enterprise, known as Gillespie and Brothers. By 1839, the Gillespies had relocated their business to La Grange and were buying Texas bounty-land certificates. “Ad” Gillespie spent three more years in this business before he began riding with the Texas Rangers.
In 1840, Gillespie participated in the upper Colorado River expedition with John Henry Moore of the Old Three Hundred during the period when Moore was engaging the Comanche in battle. From September 1842 to January 7, 1843, “Ad” held the rank of Private in a Texas Rangers company under John Coffee Hays, and participated in the 1842 Battle of Salado Creek and was a member of the Somervell expedition.
Gillespie also served under Hays during the 1844 Battle of Walker’s Creek which was a turning point in the struggle between the Indians and the Texas Rangers. Before Samuel Colt invented the Paterson “five-shooter” revolver, the Rangers were at a decided disadvantage against the Indians because their weapons were single-shot. While a Ranger was reloading, a well-trained Comanche could have five or six arrows in the air toward him. The Paterson revolver was first used in the pivotal Battle of Walker’s Creek.
Prelude to the Battle
In early June, 1844, Hays and fifteen men were scouting the upper courses of the Pedernales and Llano. They were in the hill country, west of Austin and San Antonio. Finding nothing, they headed back toward home. On June 8, they stopped to gather honey from a bee tree on Walker’s Creek, a tributary of the Guadalupe River about fifty miles north of San Antonio. Hays, meanwhile, had dispatched two of his men to lag behind the group, and see if they were being followed. This was an old Indian practice. The two men soon dashed into camp and breathlessly reported that they had found ten sets of Indian horse tracks behind them. The company quickly saddled and mounted, while the Comanches, whose numbers were variously estimated at from forty to upwards of 200 warriors, fell back into a thicket from which they apparently hoped to spring an ambush. As the Rangers, drawn forward by a single horse left out as “bait”, advanced to within a few hundred yards of the hidden Indians, approximately twenty warriors revealed themselves, bantering Hays’ men for a fight. The rest of the war party remained concealed in the woods.
The Rangers, however, refused to fall into the trap. The entire Indian force rode forward in line of battle to draw the Ranger attack. To the Comanche’s rear ran a dry ravine, and beyond that rose a high hill covered with timber and brush and strewn with rocks. Hays’ men advanced slowly at the trot while the Indians fell back to the top of the hill. From behind rocks and trees they taunted the Rangers in Spanish, hoping to provoke a frontal assault. Hays, however, led his men around the hill. His movement was shielded by the ravine, and he attacked the Indian line from the rear. The fight for the hill top was soon hand-to-hand.
The Rangers drove back two counterattacks on their flanks, after which the Comanches broke and fled. It became a running fight, and went for more than an hour on over two miles of rough terrain. Urged on by their heroic chief, Yellow Wolf, the Indians kept rallying, regrouping, and attacking, only to be overwhelmed by the Rangers’ fire-spitting Colt revolvers. Still the fight went on, as the Indian leader rallied his men again and again.
Then, Hays’ men ran out of ammunition. More precisely, they had run out of preloaded cylinders, which could not be reloaded in the field, and no one had anything but five-shooters. They were now at the mercy of the thirty-five remaining Indians. Or at least they would be when the Indians figured out their ammunition had run out. Hays then coolly called out to see if anyone had any bullets left. One man, Robert Addison Gillespie, rode forward and said he did. “Dismount and shoot the chief,” ordered Hays. This Gillespie did: At a range of “thirty steps” he dropped the chief from his saddle. The remaining Indians “in wild affright at the loss of their leader…scattered in every direction in the brushwood.”
At the end of the battle, Indian casualties were estimated at from twenty to more than fifty killed and wounded. Ranger losses amounted to one killed and four seriously wounded. Among them were Samuel Walker and Robert Addison Gillespie, both thrust through the body with lances. Walker was not expected to live, but he and Gillespie both survived.
In 1845, General Zachary Taylor arrived in Texas. Gillespie commanded a company of volunteers who enlisted into federal service and his unit helped Taylor in the occupation of Laredo. When Hays organized the First Regiment of Texas Mounted Riflemen in the Mexican War, Gillespie joined the regiment and served as Captain until March 28, 1846. The Rangers joined Zachary Taylor during the Battle of Monterrey. Gillespie was the first Ranger to breach the fort at the Independence Hill summit. He was wounded at the assault on the Bishop’s Palace, on September 22, 1846, and died the next day. His comrades returned his body to Texas for burial in San Antonio. He was only thirty one at the time of his death
In 1848, Gillespie County was created and was named in honor of Captain Robert Addison Gillespie. On April 21, 1856, the remains of Gillespie, along with those of fellow ranger Samuel H. Walker, were reinterred in the San Antonio Odd Fellows Cemetery. Although the years that he spent in Fayette County were a brief chapter in his life, I believe that we have the right to claim “Ad” Gillespie as of one of our own and a true Texas Hero!
The Granville Family of La Grange
By Carolyn Heinsohn
Quite often there are parents who can boast that they had produced one or two children who were high achievers with successful careers. All four children of the Maurice Granville, Sr. family, who lived in La Grange for over twenty years in the first half of the 20th century, excelled in every aspect of their lives.
Their story begins with Maurice Frederick Granville, Sr., who was born in 1888 in Bellville, Texas, the son of James Benjamin and Hulda Schenk Granville. Austin County was the first Texas home of the original Granville immigrants who descended from old English-Norman roots. In 1905, the family moved to Kerrville, Texas, because of Hulda Granville’s declining health.
Sometime prior to 1910, Maurice, Sr. met his future wife, Dorothea (Dora) Hulda von Rosenberg, the daughter of Carl Johannes (C.J.) and Dora Meyer von Rosenberg, well-known citizens of La Grange. Dora (2) was born in 1888 in Ellinger, Texas, where her parents were living at the time.
C.J. von Rosenberg was born on the Evergreen farm in eastern Fayette County, the son of Johannes Carl and Julie Groos von Rosenberg. As a young man, he worked as a sales clerk in various surrounding towns, and by 1881, he organized a mercantile business in Ellinger, where he met and in 1884 married Dora Meyer, the daughter of John Meyer of Ellinger. The first two of their four daughters were born in Ellinger.
After selling his business there in 1888, he moved to La Grange, where he founded The Von Rosenberg Company in 1890. It evolved from a grocery store into a general merchandise and grocery store by 1903, when he went into a partnership with August Heintze. By 1922, the partnership was dissolved, and C.J. built a new concrete building adjacent to his other two buildings and installed a new façade for the three-building store, that still stands today on the south side of the square. The newest section had men’s furnishings and some storage for furniture. A dress and dry goods store was in the center section with furniture displayed in the balcony area. The most eastern of the three buildings still housed the grocery store.
C.J. also founded the very successful La Grange Cotton and Oil Manufacturing Company, served as a legislator for two terms, as a mayor of La Grange, the vice-president of the John Schumacher Bank and as the State and National Grand President of the Sons of Hermann. He and Dora (1) lived with their family in a large beautiful two-story home on North Main Street where the Fayette Electric Co-op storage yard is now located. In 1930, they sold their home and moved to Austin, although C.J. continued to serve as president of his company in La Grange until his death in 1934. At that time the ownership of the company was left to his wife and children, although none took over the management of the business. Eventually the business was closed, and the buildings were either leased or sold. Dora von Rosenberg (1) died in Austin in 1937 and is buried in the La Grange City Cemetery.
Maurice Granville, Sr. and Dora (2) von Rosenberg knew one another through a common aunt and uncle by marriage, Otto and Lizette Schenk von Rosenberg of Bellville, Texas. In fact, after Maurice’s mother died, they reared Maurice’s youngest sister, Bessie, who was their niece.
Maurice, Sr. and Dora (2) were married in the First Presbyterian Church in La Grange on March 16, 1910. Initially, they lived in Kerrville, where Maurice worked for the Schreiner enterprises, but they soon returned to La Grange. Maurice, Sr. then went to work for his father-in-law, C.J. von Rosenberg, eventually becoming the manager of the La Grange Cotton and Oil Manufacturing Company.
Maurice, Sr. was very active in civic affairs. In 1923, while he was serving on the La Grange School Board, the new high school was built on the corner of Travis and Jackson Streets; his name is listed on a stone plaque next to the entrance of the old school. He was also an elder in the Presbyterian Church.
Dora von Rosenberg Granville grew up in La Grange, where she graduated from the local high school. She attended a private college, but then pursued her interest in drama in a fine arts school in Dallas. Her drama teacher thought that she was talented enough to tour with a theatrical group, but Dora had to decline due to her father’s opposition. Her marriage soon thereafter to Maurice, Sr. ended her potential opportunities in theater; however, because of her wonderful speaking voice, she was frequently in demand for public speaking engagements wherever she lived. Although Dora was never able to pursue her dramatic interests, she somewhat realized her dreams and ambitions through the interesting and diverse careers of her children.
Maurice, Sr. and Dora Granville’s first child, Charles James, was born on January 23, 1911 in La Grange. Because both folk and classical music had figured in the lives of the Granville family, including Maurice, Sr., who played the violin, Charles had an innate musical ability. He began studying piano at an early age and soon was recognized as a child prodigy in music. After a year at Baylor College, he went to Germany and Switzerland to study with renowned teachers. In the late 1930s, he had to flee Paris, where he was beginning to perform in concerts, due to the impending German occupation. He traveled through Portugal and went to Morocco, where he taught piano in a boy’s school, but returned to the U.S. in 1940, probably because of the war in Europe. He then went to Los Angeles, where he received a degree in music from the University of California. In addition, he excelled in foreign languages, speaking fluent German, French and Spanish. He also studied Portuguese and Italian. Eventually, he moved to Austin, where he was recognized as an outstanding concert pianist, who especially loved to perform the works of Chopin, Liszt, Beethoven and Brahms. Charles died in 1991 and is buried next to his mother in the La Grange City Cemetery.
Maurice Frederick, Jr., the second son of Maurice and Dora, was born in La Grange on October 26, 1915. He soon began demonstrating his academic strengths and leadership skills. During high school in La Grange in 1931, he received the Distinguished Eagle Scout Award and later was a member of Tau Beta Pi, an Engineering Honor Society, while attending the University of Texas. After graduating from UT in 1937 with a BS in chemical engineering, he worked in the petrochemical industry in Houston. He then moved to New York City to work for The Texas Corporation, which became Texaco, Inc. in 1959. In January1945, Maurice, Jr. married Janet L. Knotts, in Falmouth, Maine. She was born in 1921 in Washburn, Washington. Their daughter, Carol McCoy (Blyberg) was born in 1946 in Bronxville, New York, followed by their son, Frederick Lloyd, who was born in 1951 in Camden, New Jersey. At some point, Maurice, Jr. did graduate studies in the School of Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
In 1971, Maurice Granville, Jr. was named CEO and Chairman of the Board of Texaco, Inc., after 34 years of climbing the ladder of success to the highest rung. However, the 70s were a troubled time for Texaco due to the Arab Israeli War, the OPEC embargo, federal price controls, mandatory allocation regulations and other restrictions, all of which resulted in a major decrease in the net income for the company. Unfortunately, that decade was the worst time to be in a leadership role in the company.
Maurice Granville, Jr.-CEO and Chairman of the Board of Texaco, Inc., 1971-1980, and director of the Federal Reserve Bank.
In 1975, Maurice, Jr. was the recipient of the Distinguished U.T. Alumni Award, given by the Texas Exes organization. In 1976, he again climbed to the top of another pinnacle when he became an officer for the Federal Reserve Bank along with Alan Pifer, President of the Carnegie Corporation of New York; David Rockefeller, Chairman of the Board of the Chase Manhattan Group and J. Henry Schroder, Director of Schroder Banking Corporation of New York, Lloyd’s Bank of London and Rolls Royce. Maurice, Jr. also received the John Rogers Award from the Institute of Energy Law in 1978. He retired from his illustrious petrochemical career in 1980 to live in his homes in Rockport, Maine and Key Largo, Florida.
Maurice, Jr’s younger brother, Chester Wooten Granville, born on October 2, 1918 in La Grange, was also a high achiever who excelled academically, as well as in sports, including tennis and basketball while attending Austin High School and the University of Texas. While at Austin High, he held several offices in the debate society and was named to the National Honor Society. At U.T., he was a member of Delta Kappa Epsilon, the Cowboys, the T Association, was an intramurals champion in basketball, tennis and badminton; a basketball letterman and the captain-elect of his team during his senior year. One of his conference basketball teammates was Denton Cooley, who eventually became a world-renown cardiologist in Houston. They both played to a record crowd in Madison Square Garden in New York City in 1940, winning the conference championship. Robert Kleberg, Jr. from the King Ranch family was a fellow member of the Cowboys, an honorary service organization, and Joe P. Hart, who later was an attorney in La Grange, was a fellow member of the T Association, which included the lettermen from all of the varsity athletic teams.
On July 26, 1941, Chester Wooten Granville married Dorothy Jane “Dottie” Farmer, who was born in 1921 in Fort Smith, Arkansas, but moved to Austin, where her mother later married Dr W.E. Williams. Dottie was a fellow student at Austin High School and then attended the Texas State College for Women in Denton, Texas and the University of Texas.
Chester Wooten Granville noted athlete, who served as a fighter pilot in WWII; declared Missing in Action in 1944
At the beginning of the U.S. involvement in World War II, Chester enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps and served as a First Lieutenant in the 435th Fighter Squadron Division. He flew P38 and P51 fighter planes in Europe as a squadron leader. On his last flight, knowing that his plane was defective, he did not turn back even though he was flying through a terrible storm. He did not return to the home field in England and was presumed lost over the Irish Sea. He was listed as missing in action on September 14, 1944. His name and the dates of his birth and death are inscribed on the back of his von Rosenberg grandparents’ tombstone in the La Grange City Cemetery, as well as on the tablets of the Missing at Cambridge American Cemetery in Cambridge, England. He was awarded an Air Medal with three Oak Clusters.
Rosalind, the youngest child and only daughter of Maurice, Sr. and Dora, was born in La Grange on September 30, 1925. In 1933, by the time Rosalind was eight years old, the Granvilles moved to Austin, following Dora’s parents, so that the three youngest children could have the advantages of better educational opportunities. Rosalind also attended Austin High School and the University of Texas, where she met her future husband, Randall K. Lowry, who was born in 1924 in Iowa. He was a decorated pilot in the U.S. Army Air Corps, having also served in Europe in World War II. She married Randall in July 1946 in Austin. He then resumed his college studies and graduated from U.T. in 1949 and began his career with Sylvania Electronics in 1950 in New York City.
Rosalind followed her husband’s career that took him from New York City to Shawnee, Oklahoma, where their two children, Tracy Alice (Martin) and Randall Keith, Jr. were born. They then lived in Pennsylvania, upstate New York and Connecticut. Rosalind became involved in many community activities wherever she lived. After Randall’s retirement, they built a home in Horseshoe Bay near Marble Falls, Texas. Rosalind had previously pursued her interest in Art and Art History by taking up painting as a pastime. An accomplished champion golfer, Randall died in 1995 and is also buried in the La Grange City Cemetery in the same plot with Dora and Charles Granville.
Sometime after Maurice, Sr. and Dora (2) moved to Austin in 1933, they parted ways and were divorced in the mid-1930s. After her children graduated from college, Dora continued to live in Austin with her son, Charles, after he returned to continue his musical career. She died in 1972 and is buried in the La Grange City Cemetery in a plot next to her parents.
In 1937, Maurice, Sr. married Olga Ehlers Steinbrook, the daughter of Hugo and Agathe Ehlers and former wife of John R. Steinbrook, a native of Ohio who owned a garage and service station on the corner where the Brasher Gunn Chevrolet dealership is presently located in La Grange. Olga’s brother, Alfred Ehlers, a cotton broker, owned the Ehlers Cotton Company, located directly across Colorado Street from Steinbrook’s garage. Olga’s father raised cotton on his farm that originally spanned the area south of Eblin Street between Hwy 77 and Business Hwy. 71. It is interesting that cotton played a significant role in the lives of Olga’s father, brother and second husband.
After their marriage, Maurice, Sr. and Olga moved to Harlingen, and then to Tyler, Texas, where Maurice, Sr. died in 1947 after a short illness. Olga returned to live with her mother in La Grange for a number of years. In 1959, due to a health condition, she sought medical care in Houston, where her brother, Dr. Helmuth Ehlers practiced. She died there three weeks later. Dr. Ehlers was a surgeon, who was the Chief of Staff of St. Luke’s Hospital and one of the leaders in the development of the Texas Medical Center. Both Maurice, Sr. and Olga are buried in the La Grange City Cemetery.
Although there are no descendants with the Granville name left in La Grange, the family left an interesting legacy of fame, fortune and misfortune. This family, which no longer has any ties to Fayette County, except for the deceased in the local cemetery, probably ranks up at the top in the “claim to fame” category.
Ancestry.com: Census, Birth, Death, Marriage Records, City Directories and Passenger Lists
Barnes, Ann, Coordinator; The von Rosenberg Family of Texas, Vol. III; compiled by family members; Nortex Press, Austin, TX, 2001
Fundinguniverse.com: “The History of Texaco, Inc.”
Google.com: Maurice F. Granville, Jr.
Interviews with Jeanette Huelsebusch, Neale Rabensburg, and Dolores Guenther Vacek
Murdock, Diane and Rudolph Psencik. “The von Rosenberg Company”, Fayette County Past and Present, 1976
von Rosenberg, Charles W. The von Rosenberg Family Records, Book II; Waco, TX, 1974
von Rosenberg-Tomlinson, Alma, General Chairman and Compiler; The Von Rosenberg Family of Texas; Toepperwein Publishing Co., Boerne, TX, 1949
Fredrich W. Grasmeyerby Larry K. Ripper
Fredrich William Grasmeyer was one the first Europeans immigrating to Stephen F. Austin's Colony. From Austin's Register of Families: "F. W. Grasmeyer, single man, age 30, trader, no slaves, origin Germany, oath taken March 1831". Grasmeyer's land grant was south of and adjoining the Colorado River, just east of present day Smithville. For a time he operated a ferry, a river landing, and cotton gin at that location.
On December 14, 1837, President Houston signed a bill creating Fayette County, part of which had been in the Mexican Municipality of Mina. Grasmeyer's Ferry was chosen as the boundary dividing Bastrop and Fayette counties and "running from there in a north easterly direction at right angles with the general course of the River Colorado, to the divide between the water of the Colorado and Brazos, and southwesterly to the head of the Lavaca"
In the early 1850s Grasmeyer moved to La Grange, by then a growing financial center. Over the next 30 years he would be involved in several businesses, investment ventures, and many real estate deals. He was also a partner in "Oro y Plata", a New Mexico silver mine.
Today, one of his most visible contributions to La Grange is the old Beer Office and Bottling Company Building at 114 South Main. Grasmeyer commissioned German-Texan stonemasons to construct this Italianate style commercial building in 1865. This structure served as a hotel until 1893, when it became a regional sales office for a brewery. Later it would be used to house a soft drink bottling operation, followed by a succession of other businesses. At the time of his death, in 1887, Grasmeyer had substantial holdings throughout central Texas. He left $1,200 and his extensive personal library to start a library association in La Grange. His instructions: "Only standard works of scientific literature and literature are to be purchased and not 'current books' of inferior value. No sectarian literature will be bought". Several outstanding loans were held by Grasmeyer's estate, one owed by Elizabeth Ney, the famous artist whose work stands in the Texas Capital today. Her note was for $325, 8% interest, unsecured.
Today Fredrich Grasmeyer's imposing monument stands in the west-end of the old La Grange City Cemetery. Next to it is one belonging to his niece, Rosamanda Migurski and her husband, whom Fredrich had brought over from Odessa, Russia. Her rich uncle also left them the silver mine.
by Katie Kulhanek
For an educated man looking for adventure in the mid-1800s, Texas was the place to be. And for Thomas Green, if the opportunity presented itself, he would be there. This applied not only to the Texas Revolution, but also to the Mexican-American War, and the Civil War. Wherever there was conflict, Thomas Green led the way. But he should not be remembered solely for his role in nearly every war during his lifetime, but also for his role in our local and state politics.
Thomas Jefferson Green was born in Virginia in 1814, but when he was young, he moved with his family to Tennessee. At age 21, after attending the University of Tennessee, the excitement of the Texas Revolution brought him to enlist and fight alongside the Texans. He fought in the Battle of San Jacinto and was soon after promoted to lieutenant and then major. After the Revolution, he returned to Tennessee. However, Texas was where he was meant to be. When the Republic of Texas began to grant tracts of land to veterans of the Revolution in 1837, Green was once again drawn back to Texas. Sam Houston granted Green 640 acres of land from the Muldoon League situated on the rocky fork of the Navidad River about 15 miles southwest of La Grange. Thomas Green became a part of Fayette County’s immediate history while he lived in the county and became a surveyor for the city of La Grange. Green also represented Fayette County in the House of Representatives in the Fourth Texas Congress.
After volunteering to join the Mier Expedition in late 1842, Green found himself along with many other Texans, lost and captured. The majority of the Texans were taken to Matamoros, Green being one of them. The prisoners then went through the Black Bean Episode and from there, a small number of the survivors were taken to Perote Prison near Vera Cruz. On July 2nd 1843 however, 15 Texans were able to escape the prison. They had dug a small tunnel, and Thomas Green was largely able to aid the escapees by arranging to have a friend from Mexico City bring him a map of the surrounding area outside the prison. Of the 15 who escaped, eight were recaptured shortly later, and the remaining seven (Green included) were able to make it home.
But Thomas Green wasn’t finished yet. In May of 1846, the United States officially declared war on Mexico. This prompted Green to recruit and head a company of Texas Rangers in La Grange. They were a part of the First Texas Regiment of Mounted Riflemen led by John Coffee Hays.
After the War, Green married Mary Wallace Chalmers and together, they had five daughters and one son. In the 1840s to the 1860s, he served as clerk of the Texas Supreme Court in both the Republic of Texas and the United States Supreme Court.
Once again war seemed to call Thomas Green’s name when war broke out between the states. During the Civil War, Green was elected colonel of the 5th Texas Cavalry of the Confederate States of America. He fought in the Battle of Valverde and also assisted in the recapture of Galveston. He became Brigadier General and in Louisiana, he fought in the Battles of Mansfield and Pleasant Hill. He proved himself time and time again throughout the war. Out of the four victories he led, Green’s men only suffered 600 losses while they inflicted 3,000 casualties on Union troops.
In April of 1864 at the Battle at Blair’s Landing, Green was mortally wounded by a cannon shell of a Union gunboat. It is said that his men took his loss very hard Thomas Green was “worth 5,000 men to them” (Admiral David Dixon Porter).
Today, the legacy of Thomas Green lives on; San Angelo is the county seat of Tom Green County.
Monument Hill State Historic Site: The Dawson and Mier Expeditions and Their Place In Texas History by Mark Abolafia-Rosenzweig
Judge Augustine Haidusek
Czech statesman, Jurist and Philosopherby Sandra Briones
In 1902 historian Frank Lotto described Augustine Haidusek like this: "He possesses a wonderful perseverance and indefatigable energy; hence his efforts have been crowned with success; is of strong will power, but not obstinate---and of decided views on all questions which he never hesitates to express if requested to do so; but generally keeps his own counsel, knows what he wants and how to obtain it; is very liberal, generous and always ready to help the needy. Has many warm friends, but also some bitter enemies. May be pronounced a self-made man. Speaks English, German and Bohemian."
Augustine Haidusek, notable Czech statesman, jurist and philosopher was born in a Moravian village near the Carpathian Mountains on September 19, 1845. He was the third and last child born to Valentin & Veronika Haidusek. His mother died when he was two and his father remarried. The family immigrated to Texas in 1856 where they settled on the East Navidad, now Dubina.
Augustin's father taught him to read and write Czech. He received his English education in a one-room country school and studied at home by firelight.
At the age of sixteen he enlisted in the Confederate Army and was stationed at Fort Velasco. . After the war he returned to Fayette County where he worked on the farm, continued his education, clerked in a La Grange store for several months and then taught public school.
Augustine moved to La Grange in 1869 and began to study and read law at the firm of Jarmon and Cross. On December 22, 1870 he was admitted to the State Bar of Texas which was an event of major importance, both to himself and his fellow Czechs. He was the first Czech in the United States to earn such an honor. After becoming licensed to practice law he learned the German language in order to better serve his clients.
In May 1872, he married Miss Anna Becka of Austin County. They had five children, two who died when they were very young. Jerome, Vlasta (Koss), and George lived to adulthood.
Augustine's political career began when he was elected as chairman of the Fayette County Democratic Committee in 1874. He set another precedent in 1875 when he was elected Mayor of La Grange thus becoming the first Mayor of Czech descent of any American city. He served two terms.
He was elected to the Seventeenth Texas Legislature in 1880 and served two terms representing Fayette and Lee County.
He finished his legislative duties and returned to Fayette County where he was promptly elected Fayette County Judge. During his six years in office he greatly affected the growth and development of the County. Nineteen iron bridges were built, the county purchased the bridge across the Colorado River at La Grange, and many public roads were improved. The contract to build the present Fayette County courthouse was made and the foundation laid during his administration.
One of his most important duties as Judge and the one that caused him much controversy and condemnation, was the supervision of public schools. He strongly enforced the state law that required English as the practical language in the classroom. His actions angered his Czech countrymen and they pronounced him a renegade in Czech language newspapers in La Grange and across the United States. They believed that he was attempting to deny Czech students the right to their own language.
To counteract some of the bad publicity, Judge Haidusek established his own Czech language newspaper, Svoboda, in 1885. As a newspaper editor he wielded his greatest influence by constantly urging his readers towards increased political consciousness and involvement in local and state government. He was the editor for more than 35 years.
After his judicial career ended he still continued to serve his community. He served as President of the First National Bank in La Grange beginning in 1896. The Governor appointed him to the Texas A&M College Board of Regents in 1905.
His life came to an end on September 28, 1929. He is buried next to his wife and infant children in the old La Grange City cemetery. On November 30, 1941, a monument in his honor was dedicated on Highway 77 South near Hostyn.
The all-important characteristic that brought Augustin Haidusek success in life was not merely his knowledge of law, but his understanding of the people and his common sense.
The photograph of Augustine Haidusek was taken from Fayette County, Her History and Her People, written by Frank Lotto in 1902.
Jaroslav Haidusek – A Rural Mail Carrier
Submitted by Carolyn Heinsohn
The collection of newspaper clippings kept by the late Norman Krischke of Schulenburg is a virtual treasure trove of history about persons and places in Fayette County. Thankfully, his family donated his many scrapbooks to the Fayette Heritage Museum and Archives. The following story, “After 59 Years” written by John Krhovjak was printed in the March 14, 1976 issue of The Schulenburg Sticker.
Pictured above is the man who started carrying mail on Schulenburg, Route 4, in 1905. And he started in proper fashion on a brand new motorcycle. [Jaroslav] Haidusek was a very handsome young man and when seated on his shiny, new motorbike, he presented an enchanting picture in the eyes of the beholder. Of course, he carried mail in a buggy and on horseback during inclement weather or when the roads weren’t in shape for his motorcycle. Once he drove his motorcycle into some quicksand by the Schulenburg Oil Mill, fell with the machine, and spilled his mail over a sizable area. Some by-standers rushed over and helped him assemble his mail again. Nothing was damaged and nobody injured. Too bad that helicopters weren’t around in that bygone era for I am sure he would have tried one of them too. He was still single and superbly handsome. Rumor had it that teenage girls waited for the mail at mailboxes here and there on his route. Of course, they had to be there if they were expecting a registered piece of mail or a package too large to go into the mailbox. And besides, girls didn’t get to see a new, shiny motorcycle every day. And the young carrier enjoyed delivering mail to the girls because…oh well, just because.
I was a small kid then and remember that once in January I ordered a mouth harmonica from J. Lynn & Co. for 25 cents. I was on the lookout for the mail carrier each day and it appeared that the harmonica would never arrive. It was raining one day and I saw something like a huge box on wheels heading for our mailbox. And of all things, it was pulled by a horse. The box or van came to a stop by our mailbox, a door opened, and a hand thrust the mail into our mailbox. Hmmm! What was that? Something from Mars? And my harmonica arrived at long last. This box or van intrigued me, fascinated me, aroused my curiosity, and we investigated this phenomenon a little further. Haidusek was the personification of ingenuity. He, with the help of a blacksmith, removed the bed and top from the springs of his buggy and installed thereon this box or van which they fashioned themselves. It was about 8 x 4 ft. at the bottom and perhaps 4 ft. in height. There were windows, a door, and 2 slits in front for the reins to guide the horse. And there was flap over each slit to keep out the rain and chilling wind. Haidusek obtained a brazier of some kind and filled it with live coals each morning and placed it in his van. He kept warm and out of the weather. Brother, this old man had it made.
Haidusek carried mail on this route for over 20 years but I guess that at long last he tired of the muddy roads when it rained and bumpy roads when it was dry. Actually he didn’t get to use his motorbike much and this might have gotten him disgusted. He then clerked at the Keuper Bros. and the QP Stores for many years and I would surmise that it was here that most people of Schulenburg came to know him and like him.
Haidusek married [Aloisia Polk] in 1910 and in 1914 the hand of the Lord touched the young couple. Mrs. Haidusek was dressing some chickens and had a bucket of hot water on the floor for scalding them. Their 15-month-old son [Alfons V.] backed up and fell into the hot water. He got so badly scalded that he succumbed the next day. This was the couple’s firstborn and only child and the young parents were heartbroken. Yes, “into every life some rain must fall”. Later two more children, a boy and a girl, were born to this union.
Haidusek was a quiet, unassuming, and unpretentious man and all who knew him were his friends. Jaroslav Haidusek died on Dec. 3, 1957 at his home in Schulenburg at the age of 77. He left his family and all of us the priceless heritage of a good name. The world is a little better because this man passed this way.
Jaroslav Haidusek was the son of Ignatz “Hynek” and Johanna Janca Haidusek. Ignatz was a half-brother of Augustin Haidusek, one of the first Czech American attorneys in the United States; the first Czech American mayor of La Grange; a Fayette County judge; legislator; founder and editor of the Svoboda, a Czech language newspaper; president of the First National Bank of La Grange and a member of the Board of Regents of Texas A&M College. Augustin and Hynek’s father, Valentin, along with their family, were part of the 1856 group of emigrants who founded the community that would become Dubina, Texas, the first Moravian settlement in Texas.
Caption: Jaroslav Haidusek with his motorbike; photo courtesy of the Schulenburg Sticker.
Krhovjak, John. “After 59 Years”; The Schulenburg Sticker, March 14, 1976.
Maresh, Henry R. and Estelle Hudson. Czech Pioneers of the Southwest; Western Lithograph, Houston, Texas, 1934
Halloween Special: Fayette County Folk Lore
by Katie Kulhanek
Small towns are famous for many things; rich history, friendly people, and gossip that can fly a mile a minute. Many towns and small communities in Fayette County have histories that date back to the early 1800s. But these small towns hold something more; many have stories that show a darker side. A side that some believe doesn’t exist at all, but that others believe whole-heartedly. Ghost stories come in all shapes and sizes. Some are just legends that have been passed down from generation to generation, while others are based off of the lives of actual people who once lived in the towns. Since Halloween is just around the corner, I felt it would be fitting to shed a little light on a different kind of “history” of Fayette County. After all, ghost stories are history they reflect many different characteristics of the people who once lived in the county, and the culture, beliefs, and concerns of those people. You may hear some of these ghost stories around town, if you know the right people to ask…
Many La Grange citizens can tell you the local legend of the Goatman. This creature supposedly lives on the bluff and haunts the land that overlooks the Colorado River. But do you know how the story of the Goatman really got started? In the 1920s and 1930s, there was a hermit who lived along the river at the base of the bluff in La Grange. He raised goats in the bluff area and often herded them along the river down towards the fair grounds and back up to the bluff. The man was odd; he lived by himself and had little contact with society. Because of this, local kids in La Grange started calling him “Goatman”.
In the 1950s, the legend of the Goatman was officially born and widely spread. A story was concocted that the Goatman, who was supposedly half-man and half-goat, haunts a certain road on the bluff. The road was a popular make-out place for young teenagers in La Grange. The story is that as a young couple would be in a parked car along the road, the Goatman would come up to the car, climb on top, and tap on the top of the car with his hooves, “tap, tap… tap, tap, tap…” Then he would suddenly drop down on the hood of the car and stare through the windshield at the frightened couple.
There is a speculation as to why this story was started. Parents didn’t want their teenagers driving up to the road with their significant other and “making out” late at night. The story was used to frighten the teens and dissuade them from this immoral activity. Regardless of the reason, the story is still told today and spooks many of those who hear it.
Another story that isn’t as well known is the story of the Warda Devil. Not to be confused with the popular legend of the Warda Witch. This is perhaps one of the oldest ghost stories from around the area, and it derives from German and Czech influences in central Texas. Back in the late 1800s, stories about selling one’s soul to the devil were common. It is most likely that the Warda Devil came from such a story. The legend is that under a certain bridge in Warda (which may or may not still be standing) there lived a devil. He would wait for people to walk across the bridge, and he would try to get them to sell their soul to him. Sometimes there is money involved. In the Texas-Czech culture, the story can be heard over numerous parts of Texas and many times, the devil is found wearing a gray Confederate uniform. This makes sense because many Czechs and even Germans were opposed to the Confederacy and the Confederate draft during the Civil War.
These are just two of the many rich and colorful ghost stories that are floating about the county. The above two are legends that have evolved over the years and are still told by citizens but they are just that, legends. Whether you believe them or not, they are passed down from generation to generation, and they still spook kids to this day.
Happy Halloween, Fayette County!
Andrew Jackson Hamilton
by Stacy N. Sneed
Andrew Jackson Hamilton, governor of Texas, son of James and Jane (Bayless) Hamilton, was born in Huntsville, Alabama, on January 28, 1815. He was educated and admitted to the bar in Alabama. Late in 1846 he joined his older brother, Morgan Calvin Hamilton, in Texas. He practiced law in La Grange, Fayette County, for three years, then moved to Austin. His marriage to Mary Bowen, also of Alabama, produced two sons and four daughters.
Governor P. Hansbrough Bell appointed "Colossal Jack" Hamilton attorney general in 1849, and he was elected state representative from Travis County in 1851 and 1853. After briefly considering the Know-Nothing party, Hamilton was elected to the U.S. Congress in 1859 as an Independent. He retained his seat after other Southern congressmen had withdrawn. In 1861 Hays, Travis, and Bastrop counties elected him to the state senate, but Hamilton refused to take the oath to the Confederacy and left the state in 1862. President Abraham Lincoln named him military governor of Texas, with headquarters at federally-occupied New Orleans and Brownsville.
In 1865, President Andrew Johnson confirmed Hamilton as provisional governor. Among the problems faced were Indian incursions, general lawlessness, chaotic finances, and the huge number of freedmen, emancipated since June 19, whom he advised to work hard and acquire property. He criticized the Constitutional Convention, which met in early 1866, for its reluctance to grant black suffrage. Hamilton chose not to run for governor in the 1866 election, but supported E.M. Pease, who lost to James Throckmorton. Hamilton did not finish his term, but turned the governor's office over to the secretary of state while he went to Philadelphia to fight President Johnson's plan for Reconstruction. After General Philip Sheridan removed Governor Throckmorton and the Texas Supreme Court, General J.J. Reynolds named Hamilton to the state supreme court. In the Constitutional Convention of 1868-1869, and again in the gubernatorial election of 1869, A.J. Hamilton ran against the leader of the Radical Republicans, E.J. Davis. Hamilton had alienated General Reynolds, who threw his support to Davis, who won by a narrow margin. In 1871 Hamilton participated in the anti-Davis Non-Partisan Taxpayers' Convention. He died in Austin on April 11, 1875. His interment was in Austin, Texas in Oakwood Cemetery.
by Sandra Briones
When there’s a hanging in Fayette County, people by the thousands come to see, especially to witness the first legal execution in 20 years. It was July 1899, and our sheriff Loessen, at the time, tried to keep it a private matter, but a legal hanging is hard to hide. Mr. Clay Ford was condemned to death for the murder of Ms. Mitilda Winston, a most heinous crime of cruelty. He was found guilty of brutally beating Mitilda Winston and her six-year old grandchild, Oro Winston and leaving them to die. The grandchild survived to witness Mr. Ford’s execution. His case was trialed by the grand jury and appealed through the criminal appeals. There was no doubt in anyone’s mind he was guilty. Mr. Ford was escorted out of the jail by Sheriff Loessen and into the arms of the eagerly awaiting crowd. He spoke boldly without a tremor or movement in his body: “Ladies, gentlemen and friends: This morning seems very, very, very beautiful. This is the prettiest morning of my life. This is the last day that I can stand and look you in the face and see the friends I played with and associated with. I am very proud this morning to see you all here, very proud to look at and talk to everybody this morning. I am here, sentenced to be hanged at a certain hour of the day, and the crime that I am accused of is a very brutish crime, very hideous. There was never a thought that run through this body that in my heart I could commit a crime like that. I want all of you to hear that. But today I pay the death penalty on the gallows for it and I am proud of it. I am in no way guilty. I look the whole world in the face and tell them that I am not the guilty man. I am perfectly innocent of the crime, and my soul is going where all crosses, trials and tribulations are over. They will all be over in a few hours. They will all be done with. I will be there where I can hear all. I will be out of the way. I am going to a place this morning where there are no liars, no disputing, no swearing. The days that I used to walk out on the green, I had a very bright life that I could see. I can say this morning with clean heart, clean hands, that I never ended a person’s life, never put to death. I only had fights and scraps, and though I played cards for amusement, I worked hard for a living. They have accused me of killing old lady Winston. I went there and talked with the old lady, and she talked, and I gave her some pecans, and she was telling me what happened through the past week. Now, today, that I am standing before everybody, I confess that I am innocent of this crime, though I was picked up and convicted before the LaGrange courts without a sign of evidence. The man who committed the crime is out and today I must pay the penalty. I am willing and ready to go, because I know the soul will not be lost. They can cheat me out of the breath, out of this outward man, but this inward man, they can not cheat me out of it. God takes that in hand; God rules that. Today I will be with Old Lady Matilda. Today I am going. Today I will be in her company. I will talk to her. I forgive everybody, and everybody that did anything for me. I thank them with the greatest gratitude. Today my lips will be chilled in death. It must be. I have got to go. The angels and the archangels and God himself are waiting at the gates. I will walk bravely like a man; the sooner the better for me. I am glad to know that every man under the sun and every woman has got to pay the same debt. This is a debt that no man can get around. This debt has got to be paid and the day is coming when I will meet everybodyall these people. I will meet them in the great getting up morning, when the heavens will be split, when God shall walk out on the four wings of the wind. I will be there this morning. Feel in no way weak. Do not dread dying. Thank you for your attention.”
The prisoner’s death warrant was read to him by Sheriff Loessin. Clay Ford walked unassisted to the scaffold in the rear of the jail and walked up the stairs. A prayer was giving to him by Rev. Townsend. Mr. Ford looked down from the gallows straight into Rev. Townsend’s eyes and uttered his last words, “I am not guilty.” In one swift, powerful thrust, Sheriff Loessin pulled the lever forward, activating the precisely weighted pulley, dropping Ford’s body down through the trap door. As his neck snapped, the large crowd sounded out a loud, collective gasping noise. Mr. Ford was pronounced dead 13 minutes later. The crowd of people began to slowly disperse. Their ghoulish curiosity, the desire to see someone die, had been fulfilled. This was the first hanging for Sheriff Loessin, and he carried it out without a hitch.
Hank Hausmann —A Man of Many Talents
by Carolyn Heinsohn
Hank Hausmann with his shotguns and trapshooting awards. (Courtesy of Pete Hausmann)
It seems that in every generation there is one person in a community who “stands out in the crowd” as being uniquely different. Henry August “Hank” Hausmann of La Grange definitely fits into that category. He was well-known for a number of reasons, including a memorable and potentially dangerous stunt, as well as trapshooting competition achievements, earning him a place in a Hall of Fame.
Hank, the son of August J. and Lena Hensel Hausmann, grew up on his grandparents’, Joseph, Sr. and Maria Hausmann’s, farm in the Bluff community. His grandparents were early pioneers in the Bluff Community, having arrived in Texas in 1853. His uncle, Joseph Hausmann, Jr, owned and operated the Hausmann Store, blacksmith shop, cotton gin and gristmill that once were located on present-day Hausmann Gin Road.
Hank was well-known in the area for his sharpshooting abilities with a shotgun, having won multiple awards. He even traveled out-of-state to compete in Team Race trapshooting competitions with the Texas State Team from the 1920s through the 1940s. He was on the No. 1 team, helping Texas to win the State Team Race in 1929 and 1931 in Vandalia, Georgia. He was the State Singles Champion for four years in the 1930s; State All Round Champion twice; State Doubles Champion for two years in the 1940s, plus in 1939, he was the Texas State High Overall Champion breaking the world-record up to that time. In addition, he had a long list of other awards, including being the Southern Amateur Championship C.G.C. Handicap Winner in Atlanta, Georgia in 1932. He was a lifetime member of the Amateur Trapshooting Association and the Houston Gun Club. Being a champion shooter, Hank was posthumously inducted into the Texas Trapshooting Hall of Fame, which is located in San Antonio, on July 11, 2004.
In 1934, Hank gave a trapshooting demonstration for the paying public as part of a fundraising campaign for the Fayette County Sheriff’s Department to purchase a $250 “Tommy Gun”, a fast-repeating machine gun that would enable the sheriff’s department to deal with potential bandits who could overcome all opposition before them with their machine gun fire. This was the era of Bonnie and Clyde and other gangster threats, so the county commissioners felt that this gun was urgently needed for the protection of the citizens of the county, especially against their biggest fear – Bonnie and Clyde. Hank was also a good friend of Sheriff Jim Fluornoy, and being an excellent gunsmith, worked on the sheriff department’s guns, sighting them and making necessary adjustments and repairs.
He learned his shooting skills from his father, who participated in competitions at the Bluff Schuetzen Verein owned and operated by Heinrich Kreische. August J. Hausmann’s target rifle, an 1890s Stevens model especially designed for long range target shooting with a 38 caliber bullet with 55 grains of black powder in the cartridge, was donated to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department by his family and is now on display in the museum at the Monument Hill State Park Visitors Center. August J. Hausmann’s first cousin, Louis Hausmann, was also a participant in the Schuetzen Verein competitions, having been crowned Verein King one year as a result of his markmanship.
Ticket for Hank’s stunt (courtesy of Fayette Heritage Library & Archives)
A young dare-devil, who always wanted to fly, Hank decided to try out his “wings” as a child by jumping off of the roof of the family home holding onto an umbrella. Of course gravity won, and he broke his leg. He was best remembered, however, for an unusual dare-devil stunt that he performed at age 21, when he announced to the locals that he would personally “fly” an automobile off of the top of the 200-foot bluff at Monument Hill. He built a large ramp leading over the edge of the bluff, printed and sold tickets for twenty-five cents each, one of which was donated by the late Verna Reichert to the Fayette Heritage Library and Archives, and then promoted his stunt all over the area. A large crowd gathered at Kreische’s Bluff on April 24, 1916 expecting Hank and his car to go over the edge together. Instead, Hank stood on the running board and reached inside to steer the speeding car, but at the very last second just as the car hit the ramp, he jumped off unhurt before the car hurled down the cliff. Some of the people felt cheated and wanted their money back. One old-timer later commented, “Hank got enough money to buy a new car….” thanks to the gullibility of many onlookers.
Hank’s E-M-F car, a four-cylinder, 3-speed sliding gear manual, was manufactured by an early American automobile company that was named with the initials of the surnames of the three owners; the company only operated between 1909 to1912. E-M-F eventually was sold to the Studebaker company. The E-M-F cars were known for their bad-build quality and acquired the nicknames, “Every Morning Fix-It” and “Every Mechanical Fault”. No wonder Hank was willing to drive it over the bluff. People were finding pieces of his car under the bluff for a number of years, as well as other trash discarded from the Bluff Schuetzen Verein Pavilion.
Hank later owned the Magneto Garage, an automotive repair shop in La Grange, located on the corner of N. Main and W. Colorado Streets. Presently, the Texas Country Title building is located at that site. He probably acquired some of his automotive repair skills from having to frequently work on his “flying” car. He also repaired lawnmowers, tractors, cars, guns and other mechanical equipment on the old Joseph Hausmann, Sr. property while he lived there for awhile. Small parts and pieces of metal are not only strewn under a very large live oak tree, but are also embedded in the tree.
In the early 1930s, Hank built a hunting trailer that he covered with non-corrosive tin sheeting called Scott’s Extra-Coated Roofing Tin that came in square or rectangular pieces that had to be crimped and soldered together. He used the trailer as a base camp for duck hunting and fishing at the coast, parking it all winter long at a fishing camp at Olivia near Port Lavaca. Hank also lived in the trailer for a year in the 1930s while working for the CCC Service Center in their maintenance department, which was located in Yoakum, Texas.
For the duck hunting trips, which usually included quite a few people, Hank was the organizer who made sure that all of the gear was gathered up and taken along with the trailer, which included decoys, boats, motors, lanterns, camp stoves, etc. All of the boats were handmade by Hank. One of the boats that survived for quite some time was a 14 foot V-hull boat constructed with marine grade plywood.
Many people would go hunting with Hank and would live in the trailer for no less than a week. They would hunt ducks and geese in the morning, fish during the day, and then hunt again later in the day, coming home with washtubs filled with ducks that would be divided among friends and relatives. During one hunt, there were six persons staying in the small trailer built to accommodate four, which meant that they were almost sleeping on top of one another. Those who went on that trip were Hank, Gus Hausmann, Louis Hausmann, Buddy Loehr, Robert E. Loehr and Glen Roy Hausmann. The old trailer has been restored by Hank’s grandson and sits in the yard near the old home of August J. Hausmann, which is now used as a family weekend home.
Hank also carved his many duck decoys from cork that came from the interior walls of the old ice house in La Grange that had burned in the late 1930s to early 1940s. The old ice house is now the La Grange Farm and Ranch Store building. Hank also carved decoy heads out of cedar with a pocket knife, many of which were made while he was sitting at the bedside of his wife, Dora (Niemeyer), during her illness, which eventually led to her death in 1954 in the La Grange Hospital. He and Dora had one adopted son, Glen Roy Hausmann, the biological son of Hank’s sister and brother-in-law, Pauline (Hausmann) and Paulie Lueders. Glen Roy was only nine months old when his mother died of pneumonia.
Hank Hausmann died at the age of 69 in 1965; both he and his wife, along with their son, Glen Roy, are buried in the La Grange City Cemetery, and Hank’s posthumous Trapshooting Hall of Fame award is displayed on a brass marker that has been placed by his grave. Always ready for an adventure, Hank was a very honest and moral person – a talented man, who could do or make anything. He lived a very colorful life that is noteworthy and deserving of this biographical recognition.
“A Machine Gun for Fayette County”; Fayette Heritage Museum and Archives staff; material extracted from the La Grange Journal files, May 3, 1934; published in the “Footprints of Fayette”, January 19, 2003.
Fayette Heritage Library and Archives
Pete Hausmann, grandson of Hank Hausmann; Austin, Texas
By Gary E. McKee
"One man, one family driven from the land; this rusty car creaking along the highway to the west. I lost my land, a single tractor took my land. I am alone and bewildered. And in the night one family camps in a ditch and another family pulls in and the tents come out."
These are lines extracted from the Pulitzer Prize winning American novel, The Grapes of Wrath, written by John Steinbeck and published in 1939. This realist novel illustrated the story of the 1930s migration of Americans displaced from their homes by drought and the financial crisis in the U.S. Hundreds of thousands of unfortunate, destitute families headed westward to the fields of California, by any means of cheap transportation, to find work and dignity.
One day, I came across a postcard with an image of Schulenburg, complete with a one cent stamp and postmarked February 15, 1933, Schulenburg, Texas. It was addressed to a Mrs. E.M. Hill, 310 E. 25th St., Brooklyn, N.Y. Most of the postcards in my collection that were actually mailed contain normally generic information, such as “I am fine, how are you,” and rarely mention the places the cards were sent from. This particular card, however, captures the plight of many characters in The Grapes of Wrath.
It reads: “Left Densy Sat-at-2 P.M. Spent-last-night here Broke down (again) last eve about-15 mi. for here in a norther. A man shoved us several mi to a gas sta & I came on with him so I could sleep in bed. The old lady driving us to Ca [California] has no money- & ϶ [etcetera]. Four passengers - one is man, weight 265 lbs. A girl, 130. We are so crowded cant change our mind in the car. 1st- nite spent in T [tourist] camp in Ala 2nd in c[camp] Houma La., Next in Beaumont Texas then here. [signed] Mrs. Walker”
The photo on the card is taken from the intersection of US. 90 and Lyons Avenue facing south. The Von Minden Hotel is on the right without a marquee or fire escape. The wide curbed street, which was the main North-South route, as the present underpass wasn’t built until the following year, has a dozen 1920s vintage cars parked indiscriminately, and a single power pole on the block. Mrs. Walker noted under the photo: “120 miles to San Antonio”
The addressee, Mrs. Hill, lived in a 5 story apartment building, built in 1931, which still exists.
I am grateful to Mrs. Walker for leaving behind a scrap of life and I hope she found salvation in the fields of California.
The Heintze Museum - La Grange, Texasby Carolyn Meiners
August Heintze of La Grange was not only a highly successful businessman, but also an enthusiastic collector of the unique. His monumental collection of rare, odd and valuable articles was so distinctive in character and so diverse in its composition that it was in a class by itself among private collections in the late 1800s and early twentieth century.
A German by birth, the son of a merchant, Mr. Heintze received a thorough education that whetted his appetite to begin collecting curious oddities as early as 1863.
After immigrating to Texas in 1873, Mr. Heintze moved to Fayette County, where he established a store in Warrenton. In 1888, he moved to La Grange, where he was involved in several successful business ventures, followed by the organization of the Heintze-Speckels Company, the largest business and finest department store in the county. Presently, the Heritage Hallmark shop is located in this building. He housed his extensive collection in five rooms on the second floor of this business.
Mr. Heintze had people from around the world collecting for him, including the travelling salesmen in Texas, who supplied him with information for securing relics. His enthusiasm and ample purse made his methods of collecting quite effective.
His collection, which was worth over $50,000 in 1914, was so massive that it spilled over into several other buildings, as well as his home, with many of the thousands of artifacts not properly labeled or displayed. His diverse collection ranged from the life-size figure of a general officer in full costume to the tiniest gold coin ever minted. There were 25,000 postage stamps; approximately 5000 coins -including Roman, Egyptian and Phoenician specimens; the finest collection in America of printed currency from around the world; a priceless bible; a mummy from the Fifth Dynasty of Egypt; jewels from crown collections; relics of soldiers and patriots, including swords and guns from many famous battles; a ledger owned by Benjamin Franklin; papers of Lincoln; a piece of the tree under which Santa Anna was held prisoner, and relics of the assassin of President McKinley.
After Mr. Heintze's death, his collection gradually disappeared, some to unscrupulous curiosity seekers who pilfered items out of the dusty, neglected museum. The majority was sold bit by bit during the depression. The Witte Museum in San Antonio and the San Jacinto Museum in Houston acquired some of the collection. The family kept a few items, but the vast majority of this phenomenal collection is again dispersed around the world, from whence it came.
August Heintze is the bearded gentleman on the right in the top photo. All photos from the Fayette Heritage Museum & Archives.
See information regarding Heintze artifacts donated to the San Jacinto Museum.
William F. Heller
by Elva Keilers
The eldest son of Frank Heller, a German settler of Fayette County in the 1830s, William was born March 24, 1845.
William Heller was a Confederate officer, serving in the Fifth Texas Mounted Volunteers from September 1861 to April 1865. He is reported to have been a gunner on a Confederate ship, accounting for his acquired deafness. One story tells that he was firing on a Union ship, which surrendered during the attack. However, because of his hearing loss, he did not hear the command to cease firing, but continued the attack after surrender had been declared.
William Heller was the first “sod-buster” (farmer) in the Texas Panhandle. He left Fayette County in 1869, arriving in the Palo Duro Canyon area in 1886. He took a wagonload of saplings, intending to plant orchards on 150 acres of land on Tierra Blanca Creek. His intent had been to work on ranches for income until his crops were established. However, ranchers refused to hire him, regarding him as a threat to their open range. To support himself, he resorted to picking up buffalo bones on the prairie, taking them to Amarillo to sell to fertilizer companies. His home was a dugout in the canyon area, where his Fayette County family members visited him into the twentieth century. He gradually overcame resistance and established the agriculture in the Panhandle.
William Heller was community-minded. In 1889, Randall County was carved out of what was then the Bexar County territory, and Heller was the second signer of the petition to the State of Texas to allow this organization. He was its first county/district clerk, helped organize the Masonic Lodge in Canyon and established their first Sunday school in the local courthouse. Reportedly, he was forced to clear the space of cowboys sleeping off their Saturday night celebrations before classes could convene. He eventually developed a real estate business in the town of Canyon.
In Amarillo, on September 9, 1897, Heller married Susan Roberts, who had moved there with her family from Missouri. She had a facial scar, possibly resulting from early surgery, which prevented her from speaking plainly. Inasmuch as William did not hear well, it seemed a match made in heaven. They had no children during their 40 years together. They moved to town during their life together, building the first wooden home in Canyon.
The Hellers donated generously toward the establishment of West Texas Normal School. That school evolved into West Texas State Teachers College, then West Texas University, and is now West Texas A&M University.
William died March 21, 1936 in Canyon, Texas, where both he and Susan are buried.
The Frederick August Helmecke Family of Round Top
by Cynthia A. Thornton, Author of The Times of Round Top
The Helmecke Family, early settlers in Round Top, Texas, was one of many that helped develop that small village into a viable, prospering entity. Several male members of the family were blacksmiths, who made, repaired and invented essential tools and equipment for the area residents. The family not only had a significant presence in the Round Top business community in the latter half of the 19th century, but also were involved in civic and social activities.
Frederick (Fritz) A. Helmecke was born June 28, 1827 in Prussia. Fritz married Mathilda Amalie Dorothea Melchior in 1853 in Prussia. She was born May 21, 1832 in Burg Magdeburg, Prussia, the daughter of Johann Matthias Melchior and Johanna Christiana Hoeffel.
In September of 1853, Fritz and Mathilda Helmecke sailed from Burg to Texas with her brothers Rudolph and Wilhelm. They arrived in Galveston, Texas where they were quarantined for two weeks due to the yellow fever outbreak. Fritz and Mathilda settled in the village of Round Top. The Helmecke children were:
1. Otto Heinrich Helmecke, 1854-1907
2. Anna Marie Helmecke, 1856-
3. Udo Heinrich Helmecke, 1858-1925
4. Ida Louise Helmecke, 1861
5. Jeanette Auguste Helmecke, 1862-1950
6. Paul Herman Helmecke, 1864-1894
7. Johanna Natalie Helmecke, 1866-
8. Bruno Oswald Helmecke, 1868-1923
9. Hedwig Mathilda Helmecke, 1869-
10. Selinda Hermine Helmecke, 1872-1951
11. Alexander Herman Helmecke, 1879-1879
On January 1, 1867, John & Julia Rosenberg sold one square acre on the north side of White Street (Block 21) to Fred A. Helmecke for $1115.00 with all improvements. This tract of land had been owned by Arthur Meerscheidt and sold to John Rosenberg on February 1, 1866 for $800.00. This tract of land became the homestead of Fritz Helmecke. On February 20, 1867, Charles P. Flack sold to Fred A. Helmecke one-half acre in the shape of a triangle for $40.00. After the village of Round Top was incorporated in 1870, Fritz served on the town council for several years. He established a blacksmith and invented several types of pumps for his business. Fritz died June 18, 1907 in Round Top, and Mathilda died July 13, 1901 in Round Top. They are buried in Richter Hill Cemetery.
Otto Heinrich Helmecke, the first son, was born November 3, 1854 in Round Top. He married Johanna Carolina von Rosenberg on December 27, 1884 in Round Top. Johanna was born March 12, 1859. Their children were:
1. Fritz Dewey Helmecke born January 9, 1899 and died June 16, 1920. He is buried in Richter Hill Cemetery.
2. Otto Heinrich Helmecke Jr. born June 6, 1900 and died June 6, 1900. He is buried in Bethehem Lutheran Cemetery.
On February 23, 1901 Henry and Katherine Becker sold six acres of land on White Street to Otto for $180, where he built his home. Otto established a well-known blacksmith shop and was a member of the Florida Chapel Masonic Lodge, No. 46. Otto died on November 15, 1907 from cancer of the tongue. Johanna died October 26, 1935 in La Grange while living with her sister. Otto and Johanna are buried in Richter Hill Cemetery.
Udo Fredrick Helmecke, the second son, was born May 6, 1858 in Round Top. He
married Susan Ruth Hontz on April 1, 1883. Their children were:
1. George Helmecke born January 6, 1884 and died April 12, 1962 in Bay City. He married Aline Fay Woolsey; they are buried in the Cedarvale Bay City Cemetery.
2. Arthur Alexander 'Cot' Helmecke born November 13, 1889 and died August 22, 1963 in Van Vleck, Texas. He married Mary Bessie Blanchard; they are buried in the Roselawn Memorial Park in Van Vleck.
3. William Henry 'Bill" Helmecke born July 31, 1891 and died May 8, 1975. He married Gladys Fry; they are buried in the Cedarvale Bay City Cemetery.
4. Walter Harry Helmecke born July 10, 1895 and died June 13, 1961 in Brownwood. He married Mary Aubrey Porter; they are buried in the Greenleaf Cemetery in Brownwood.
Udo died September 16, 1925 in Bay City. He and his wife are buried in the Cedarvale Bay City Cemetery.
Paul Herman Helmecke, the third son of Frederick and Matilda Melchior Helmecke, was
born September 16, 1864 in Round Top, and married Martha Mary Neuthard on May 24, 1885. Martha's father was Rev. Johann Adam Neuthard of the Bethlehem Lutheran Church. Their children were:
1. Martha Natalie 'Nettie' Helmecke born February 16, 1864. She married Bert Means Jamison, and they had twelve children. He died of gunshot wounds in Pearland. She married Lee Roy Moore in 1930. Martha Nettie Helmecke Jamison Moore died
December 21, 1970 in Houston and is buried in the South Memorial Park Cemetery.
2. Hulda Helene Helmecke was born November 22, 1887 and died November 12, 1902 from typhoid fever while nursing her stepfather Noack. She is buried in the Prairie Lea Cemetery in Brenham.
3. Flora Lean Helmecke was born December 31, 1888. She married John Lafayette Fletcher in 1908 in Cameron, Texas. John died September 9, 1958 in Brownwood. She died February 20, 1967. They are buried in the Greenleaf Cemetery in Brownwood.
4. Delores Gertrude Helmecke was born October 29, 1890. She married George Deorsam and they had eight children. George died in 1951 and Delores died June 11, 1980. They are buried in the Copperas Cove Cemetery.
5. Albert Bernard Helmecke was born May 31, 1892. He married Myrtle A. Bye in 1918 in Waverly, Iowa. They had one daughter, Dorothy. Albert died June 15, 1974 in Wichita Falls and is buried in the Crestview Memorial Park Cemetery in Wichita Falls.
On December 4, 1893 Paul's wife, Martha Mary Helmecke, purchased Lot 1 & Lot 2, Block 16 in Round Top for $600.00. On October 14, 1894, Paul shot himself with a pistol near his house on the Schiege Cigar Factory property. He is buried in the Bethlehem Lutheran Cemetery. Martha Mary Helmecke married John E. Noack in 1896. He died in 1902, and she married
William M. Wolf. Later she married Paul Pfarrdresher of Milam County. Martha died in 1936 and is buried in the Bethlehem Lutheran Cemetery as Martha Marie Pfardescher.
Jeanette Auguste Helmecke, the fifth child, was born August 22, 1862. She married Herman C. Mueller. He was a cigar manufacture and died November 11, 1931 in Cat Springs. Jeanette died October 5, 1950 in Cat Springs. She and Herman are buried in the Millheim Cemetery in Austin County.
Bruno Oswald Helmecke, the fourth son, was born January 22, 1869. He was a blacksmith and lived in Bay City and Carmine. He never married and died January 24, 1923 in Carmine. He is buried in the Carmine Cemetery.
Selinda Hermine Helmecke, the tenth child, was born June 2, 1872. She married August Becker. He was born October 24, 1865. He was a butcher and became a cattle buyer. Selina and August had four children:
1. John Adolph Becker born October 3, 1892. He married Essie Louvina Truehitt in Waco. They had four children. Essie died September 16, 1956 in Waco and John died October 9, 1972 in Waco. They are buried in the Rosemound Cemetery in Waco.
2. Ella was born December 8, 1895 and married Wilhelm "Willie" Sacks in 1914 in Round Top. Willie was a blacksmith. Their children were Dorothy Anita, Lucyel Ruby and Willie Junior. Ella died September 30, 1970 and Willie died December 10, 1971. They are buried in the Florida Chapel Cemetery.
3. Anita was born February 24, 1898 and married Clifton William Dippel in 1916. They had two children. Their children were B. J. and Dorothy May. Clifton died September 4, 1966 and Anita died October 8, 1983. They are buried in the Florida Chapel Cemetery.
4. Ruby Katherine was born in 1909. She married Leon Vestine Walker. Leon was born in 1905. Their three children were Leon Vestine, Jr., William Lew and John Robin. Leon died in 1964 and Ruby died in 1986 in Austin. They are buried in the Cook-Walden Memorial Hill Cemetery in Austin.
August died January 26, 1941 and Selinda died October 3, 1951 in Austin. They are buried in the Florida Chapel Cemetery.
Alexander Herman Helmecke was born in 1879 and died the same year. He is buried in the Bethlehem Lutheran Cemetery.
Top: Home of Fritz and Matilda Helmecke in Round Top, TX, courtesy of Cynthia Thornton
Bottom: Paul Herman Helmecke, courtesy of Cynthia Thornton
Ancestry.com: Census Records, Birth, Marriage and Death Records
Fayette County Deed Records, La Grange, Texas: Fayette County Clerk Office, Vol. S., pp.154-155, pp. 290-291, Vol. U., pp. 309 & 465, Vol. 68., pp. 592-593, Vol. 83. Pp. 101-102, Vol. 1 07, p. 264.
Fayette Heritage Museum & Archives, La Grange, Texas: Cemetery Burial List: Bethlehem Lutheran, Florida Chapel, Richter Hill, Rosemound (Waco), Cedarvale Bay City, Greenleaf (Brownwood), Roselawn Memorial Park (Van Vleck), Carmine, South Memorial Park (Pearland), Forest Park (Houston), Crestview Memorial Park (Wichita Falls), Prairie Lea (Brenham), Millheim (Austin County), Cook-Walden Memorial Hill (Austin).
Franke, Gertrude: Bauer, A Goodly Heritage, San Antonio, Texas: San Antonio Genealogical & History Society
Thornton, Cynthia A.: The Times of Round Top, Author House, 2013, pp. 76-77, 297, 311, 375.
The von Rosenberg Family of Texas, Nortex Press, 1986, Reprint, Vol. I, p. 78.
The Noack Family Tree Web Site
Edward Henkel of Round Top
by Cynthia A. Thornton
Edward Henkel was born George August Edward Henkel on May 24, 1818 in Hesse-Kassel, Germany. On June 6, 1846, Edward Henkel and his wife, Louise Leopoldine Schoenwerks, sailing from Germany, landed in Galveston. Five days after arriving in Galveston, their first child, Carl, was born on June 11, 1846.
The Henkels came to Texas as part of the H. F. Fisher-B. Miller Land Grant Colony, which was created by the Republic of Texas in 1842. This original land grant allowed 600 families to acquire land.
On October 3, 1846 Franklin Lewis sold 187 acres of land to Edward Henkel for $450.00 on the north side of Cummins Creek. On February 1, 1847 the Henkels purchased 60 acres of land from Milton A. and Mary T. Hardin of Liberty County for $75.00. This acreage was located on the south side of Cummins Creek and on the east banks of Shaw Creek. Edward Henkel built a log cabin for his family on this property. This log cabin is located on the L. C. Meyer homestead.
Edward Henkel's granddaughter, Mrs. L. C. Meyer, lived on the family farm until she died. Mrs. Meyer was one of the daughters of Edward Henkel and his second wife, Mathilde. The original log house built by Henkel in 1847 was still on the property. An outer layer of tin protected the cabin from the elements, and it was used as a corn crib. Mrs. Meyer had a family Bible containing vital statistics of the family since they came to Texas. Included among other family treasures, Mrs. Meyer had an oil portrait of Louise (Henkel's first wife), several photographs of Mathilde in her late years, and furniture brought from Galveston by the Henkels. Mrs. Hoskinson, Mrs. Meyer's cousin, had several old family photographs and some of Edward Henkel's ledger books and documents. Other Henkel family items, such as a coverlet brought from Germany and a platter from Henkel's old store on Live Oak Street in Round Top, are on deposit at the Daughters of the Republic Museum in Austin, Texas. A ledger book from Henkel's store, bearing the date 1877 on one page, is on file at the archives at The University of Texas at Austin.
The Henkels had two children born on the 60 acre farm on the south side of Cummins Creek near the village of Round Top. The children were Franz George Theodore Henkel born in 1849 and Mathilda Henkel born in 1851.
On November 2, 1852 Edward Henkel purchased 25 acres of land along with buildings from John and Sarah Shults for $700.00. This property was part of the early Mexican land grant in 1831 to James Winn. One half of the Winn land grant was sold to John York in 1835 including the 25 acres. In 1841 John Shults purchased the 25 acres and operated a store and lived on the property in the village of Round Top. This land that Edward Henkel purchased for $700.00 had to have contained several buildings. This land was part of the land that was later called Henkel Square and today is called Henkel Square Market.
On October 13, 1855 William Hodges sold to Edward Henkel Lot No. 4, Block 9 for $200.00 in the village of Round Top. There must also have been buildings on this lot because other lots were selling for $50.00 and $60.00. This is the lot were the Henkel house is today and where the family lived. Therefore, part or all of the house might have been built by Mr. Hodges. The original builder of the house cannot be proven.
The Henkel House was built of cedar and pine material. When the Henkel family lived in the house, there were three bedrooms and a main room used as a dining room. The exterior stairs on the side of the house led to the upstairs two bedrooms. There was a separate building behind the main house that served as the kitchen. The other building behind and to the side of the kitchen served as a building where meat was cured. It is believed that Rudolph Melchior painted the stenciling on the walls of the first floor back room.
In 1855 a daughter, Louise, was born to Edward Henkel and his wife. Ten days later Mrs. Louise Henkel died, and their new born daughter, Louise, died in 1856. After Edward Henkel's wife died and in accordance with his wife's wishes, Mr. Henkel returned to Germany and married his wife's sister, Mathilde Wilhelmine Schoenwerk. They were married in Frankfurt at the office at the American Consul. The couple returned to Round Top to live on the family farm on the 25 acres. The Henkels had a son, George, born in 1858 and a son, Albert, born in 1862. Edward Henkel was a farmer and operated a general store on Live Oak Street in Round Top. The store was closed during the Civil War due to lack of supplies.
Between the years 1855 to 1871, Edward Henkel sold some of his property in Round Top. On October 17, 1855 he sold to Joseph Wagner Lot No. 2 & 3, Block 3 for $60.00. On March 4, 1856 Henkel sold to Eli W. Tharp and Peter Snook 1/8 of an acre on Lot No. 3, Block 9 for $18.00. Tharp and Snook built a two story building called The Store House on the corner of Live Oak Street and Mill Street with living quarters upstairs and a store downstairs. On May 16, 1856 Edward Henkel sold to Carl Ehrgott Bauer Lot No. 4, Block 7 for $35.00. On January 28 1859, Henkel sold to Charles Vogelsang 1/2 of an acre for $23.00. Vogelsang's land was located to the north of the village survey in an area called E. Henkel's Addition.
On March 4, 1859 Edward Henkel sold to Peter Carl von Rosenberg one acre for $100.00. This land was located on the northeast banks of Cummins Creek on Lot No. 2, Block 5 on a hill. On December 1, 1865 he sold to Christian Huth Lots 1, 2 and 3/4 of 3, Block 8 for $235.00. On February 28, 1885 Henkel sold to the town of Round Top 50 ft. x 100 ft. in Lot No.3, Block 9 for $35.00. This land was to be used for a town courthouse for the Mayor's Court, the Justice Court for Beat No. 3 and a large room for the Round Top Lodge of the Knights of Labor.
On April 2, 1888 Henkel sold to Edward Recknagel 14,625 square feet along Live Oak Street for $290.00. The Recknagels built a building called The Apothecary, and their house was side by side with their business facing Live Oak Street. Edward Recknagel operated a drug store and his wife, Fredericka Michaelis Recknagel, operated a photograph shop in the back of the drug store. On March 30, 1871 Henkel sold to William Johann Heinrich Umland Lots No. 1 & 4, Block 3 for $100.00.
Edward Henkel served his village and town as Justice of the Peace in 1860 and as mayor of Round Top from 1872 to 1875. He lived in his home until his death on July 22, 1885. His wife, Mathilde, lived until 1898 when she died in Round Top at the age of 70. They are buried together in the Florida Chapel Cemetery.
Mrs. Jossie V. Henkel Hoskinson Papers, RTAHS, Round Top, Texas, 1956, p.16
Fayette County Deed Records, Vol. L, p. 86; Vol. K, pp. 459-460; Vol. L, p. 18; Vol. N., p. 63; Vol. O, p. 285; Vol.R, pp. 298-299; Vol. W. pp. 533-534; Vol. 24, pp. 311-312; Vol. 32, p. 506
1870 United States Census, Edward Henkel
Photo of Edward Henkel’s home in Round Top, Texas, courtesy of Cynthia Thornton, author of The Times Of Round Top
Heroes of Fayette County
by Bobbie Nash
As we begin work on the Old Fayette County Jail and the new purpose of housing the “Texas Heroes Museum”, I have thought about what a hero is to me and the different heroes I have known and shared time with since moving to Fayette County. The Merriam Webster dictionary defines a hero as "a person who is admired for great or brave acts or fine qualities".
I think it’s important to remember and honor not only the past heroes of Fayette County, but those who are still working to make this the place where we all enjoy living.
There are five people whom I consider my modern day heroes. These five people, as well as many others, work tirelessly to keep the history of Fayette County and those who have gone before us and their sacrifices in our hearts for generations to come.
The work of these five people have helped to preserve historic buildings, graves and family life so that we and our families can remember our roots. They all know the importance of building on the past so that we have a solid foundation for the future.
You might ask, why on earth does it matter what happened long ago? History studies the past and the legacies of the past in the present. Far from being a “dead” subject, it connects things through time and encourages us to take a view of these connections.
All people are living histories. We live in societies with complex cultures, traditions and religions that have not been created on the spur of the moment. People use technologies that they have not themselves invented. And each individual is born with a genetic template, which has evolved during the entire life-span of the human species.
So understanding the linkages between past and present is absolutely basic for a good understanding of the condition of being human. The study of the past is essential for “rooting” people in time. And why should that matter? The answer is that people who feel themselves to be rootless live rootless lives, often causing a lot of damage to themselves and others in the process.
So thank you Judge Ed Janecka, Kathy Carter, Rox Ann Johnson, Judy Pate and Carolyn Heinsohn for all you have done to preserve the history that honors the people of Fayette County, Texas.
However, all five of these persons agree that their heroes are the noted county historians, Walter Freytag, Joe Cole and Norman Krischke, all of whom are now deceased. It was their meticulous documentation of our county’s history that provided the foundation for the work that is now being done to further ensure that our history will not be forgotten.
Higheasterjet The Millionaire from La Grange
By Katie Kulhanek
An American Quarter Horse is described as a muscular and versatile horse with a broad chest and powerful, rounded hind legs. They are valued in their ability to sprint over short distances such as a quarter of a mile. Higheasterjet could be described as just that, or even better.
Born March 7th, 1978 and raised in La Grange, Higheasterjet’s sire (father) was Pines Easter Jet and his dam (mother) was Alamitos Doll Two. His breeder and owner was Mr. G.D. Highsmith, a plumber from La Grange, and his rider was Mr. Billy Hunt. In an excerpt from Lesli Groves’ article in AMERICA’S HORSE magazine, Higheasterjet was described as a horse with high spirits. When his trainer, Johnie Goodman, came and loaded Higheasterjet onto his trailer, the colt tried to jump out several times. Goodman had to tie him down to the bottom of trailer. They knew right then that they had the right horse.
Within the next two years, Higheasterjet and Goodman worked hoof in hand to make the young colt a champion. The opportunity came in 1980 at the 21st annual All-American Futurity. The Futurity is a race held for 2-year-old Quarter Horses that prides itself on being the richest race in Quarter Horse racing. In Groves’ article describing the race, it states that Higheasterjet showed a dashing display of drive and determination to lead him to a first place finish as he led throughout the race and even “held off a late charge by favored Mighty Deck Three”. Mighty Deck Three had come into the race with nine wins in a row prior to Higheasterjet upsetting him.
In preparation for the next All-American race held for 3-year-old Quarter Horses, which was the All-American Derby, Higheasterjet competed in races throughout the states, setting the seasonal record for 440 yards and tacking on four straight victories. Then, in 1981 at the Derby, Higheasterjet ran a come-from-behind win to score his fifth straight win. He also did something that no other Quarter Horse had done before; he became the first horse to win consecutively in both the Futurity and the Derby. It was this race that made Higheasterjet Quarter Horse Racing’s first millionaire.
In 1982, Higheasterjet had the chance to really make history. And at the All-American Gold Cup held for 4-year-old Quarter Horses, he did just that. The first place victory in the Gold Cup made Higheasterjet the only All-American Triple Crown Winner in Quarter Horse racing history. He was entered into several other races in the next three years, winning first in each of the following races: the All-World’s Championship in ’83, the Inaugural Championship in ’83, the Z. Wayne Griffin Handicap in ’83, and his last race the Thoroughbred Jockey Invitational in ’85.Higheasterjet retired with a little over $1,633,000. He had won 22 of 30 races. He spent time at Southfork, the ranch on the TV show, “Dallas” for awhile and then at a rodeo chasing steers out of the arena. Finally, his owner, Mr. Highsmith, brought him back home to La Grange where he lived peacefully until he passed away on September 16th, 2004 at 26 years old.
Benjamin F. HighsmithAlamo Courier and Texas Ranger
by Connie F. Sneed
Benjamin F. Highsmith, Alamo courier and Texas Ranger, son of Ahijah M. and Deborah (Turner) Highsmith, was born in St. Charles District, Missouri Territory, on September 11, 1817. His father, A. M. Highsmith, was in the British war of 1812 and served as scout and ranger. Mr. Highsmith came to Texas with his father in 1823 and crossed the Sabine River on a raft the day before Christmas in 1823. There were four other families along, thirty-three persons in all, and all were relatives except one. The Highsmiths moved on up the country after landing on Texas soil, and first settled on the Colorado River two miles above the present town of La Grange, on the west side of the river. This place was afterwards called Manton's Big Spring. At that time, it was called Castleman's Spring. It was named for John Castleman.
The Indians soon gave trouble, and these outside pioneers had to come back to the settlement below where lived the families of Zaddock Woods and Stephen Cottle. This settlement was finally abandoned, and all went to Rabb's Mill. The Comanche Indians, who had up to this time, had been on friendly terms with the whites, now informed them that they must leave, or they would come next moon and kill all of them. In 1829 the settlers were not strong enough to disregard such a warning as this, and consequently broke up and scattered. Most of them went down to Old Caney and Columbus. The Cottles stopped at Jesse Burnham's and the Highsmiths at Aylett C. Buckner's.
In 1830 Highsmith made his first trip to San Antonio de Béxar in a group of men that included William B. Travis, James Bowie, Benjamin McCulloch, Samuel Highsmith, George C. Kimbell and Winslow Turner. They arrived there on the first day of April. It was far out on the frontier, and consisted mostly of scattered grass-covered houses. At age fifteen, he joined the company of Aylett C. Buckner and fought in the battle of Velasco on June 26, 1832.
He took part in all of the major actions at the outset of the Texas Revolution: the fight for the Gonzales "Come and Take It" cannon, the battle of Concepción, the Grass Fight, and the siege of Bexar.
He remained in Bexar after the siege until February 18, 1836, when he was sent by Travis with an appeal for aid to Col. James W. Fannin, Jr., at Goliad. Upon his return to Bexar, Highsmith found the town already occupied by the Mexican army. He was spotted by the Mexican cavalry at Powder House Hill and pursued by them for some six miles. He rode to Gonzales and later served Gen. Sam Houston as a courier. He and David B. Kent, son of Alamo defender Andrew Kent, carried a message to Fannin from Houston ordering Fannin to abandon Goliad and join him at the Guadalupe River. Highsmith fought in the battle of San Jacinto as a member of Capt. William Ware's company.
After the revolution, Benjamin Highsmith had a long career with the Texas Rangers. He served in the Mexican War, fought in the battles of Monterrey and Palo Alto, and was wounded at Buena Vista. In 1853 he married Elizabeth Turner; they had thirteen children. In 1882 the family moved to Bandera County. Mr. Highsmith died in Uvalde County on November 20, 1905.
Handbook of Texas
Early Settlers and Indian Fighters of Southwest Texas by A.J. Sowell
Highway Beautification and Fayette County
by Annette Ruckert
Try to remember or imagine a time when cars and trucks had no air conditioning. There were no Interstate highways, and automobile travel was young. Everything moved at a slower pace.
This mental picture should offer some idea why Texas developed its first picnic areas, the beginning of the state’s vast roadside park program.
Texas pioneered the concept and Fayette County can boast two “firsts” in highway beautification effortsthe first roadside park and the first to scatter wildflower seeds along the highway roadsides.
According to a former state highway engineer, Fayette Countian William Pape, Sr., a section supervisor, built the first roadside park in the fall of 1933. Pape knew of a stand of beautiful live oak trees along Robinson’s Creek, on State Highway 71 about 1.5 miles west of West Point. After the highway department accepted the 1.3-acre tract, he built tables and benches under the trees to encourage travelers to stop, relax, and refresh themselves.
Although the first park contained only a few tables, benches, and a water pump under the trees, it was a beginning. By 1938, at least 674 “wayside” parks were scattered across Texas. Created in typically shady areas, the parks offered drivers and their passengers some respite on hot summer days.
In the 1960s, first lady Lady Bird Johnson was instrumental in developing the Federal Beautification Act. In addition to new roadside safety rest areas, the Lone Star State suddenly bloomed a profusion of wildflowers from early spring through late fall. In 1972, Melvin Bayless of La Grange received runner-up status for the Lady Bird Johnson Award.
However, long before the Federal Beautification Act, Fayette County began to decorate her highways. William Pape was also the first person to scatter wildflower seeds along the Texas roadsides.
During the 1920s, it was customary to completely clear right-of-way vegetation before highway construction started. But in the 1930s, with Pape’s efforts at beautification, a new idea took hold. Trees standing along the highways were saved, and the mowing of weeds and grasses along the roads was delayed until the flowering season was over and the plants reseeded. The state now maintains nearly 900,000 acres of grass, trees, and wildflowers that grow along Texas highways.
Today most vehicles are air-conditioned. The pace of life has quickened considerably since the “good old days”. But the Depression-era roadside parksand the rest areas, scenic overlooks, and modernized comfort stations constructed since thenstill offer refuge to the weary Texas traveler. And it all started in Fayette County, on a little tract of land under the live oak trees.
John Christopher Columbus Hillby Gary E. McKee
One never knows where the strange twists of life's rocky roads will deliver you at the end of your journey. For John Christopher Columbus Hill, his road began in Georgia in the late1820s, but the destination was possibly predetermined on a battlefield in Europe several decades earlier.
Abraham "Asa" Hill moved his family to Mexican Texas in 1835 and settled in present eastern Fayette County. Asa and his wife, Elizabeth, demonstrated their devotion to patriotism by bestowing such names as Green Washington, W. C. Andrew Jackson, James Monroe, John Christopher Columbus, and Louisiana Elizabeth upon several of their thirteen children. Asa ensured that all of them received generous and equal portions of work and education as most of the children later achieved prominence in Texas history. The truly unique story is the saga of John C. C. Hill.
In 1836, President and General Santa Ana's wall of Mexican eagles and serpents were sweeping across Texas in pursuit of the Texian army under General Sam Houston. Asa Hill responded and took James Monroe Hill with him. Asa was a courier for Houston at San Jacinto and James was in the battle. Among the many prisoners was a young drummer named Jose Mendes. Jose begged not to be returned to Mexico and James brought him back to Fayette County where Asa "adopted" him.
For six peaceful years the Hill children worked the land and attended school. In 1842, Santa Ana struck again. A Mexican army returned to Texas, which was still a Mexican state in the their eyes. The army captured San Antonio. A group of Asa Hill's neighbors responded and were annihilated by Mexican cannon at Salado Creek in what has been called Dawson's Massacre. The Mexican army returned to Mexico with prisoners.
The call for revenge was spread across the Republic of Texas. Asa was prepared to bring all of his older boys to avenge the death of his neighbors, but it was harvest time. Jeffrey Hill was chosen to accompany his father on this patriotic mission. While preparing to go, John C.C., thirteen years old, begged to go along on this wonderful adventure. He had heard stories of the Revolution and Indian raids from his older brothers and father and wanted to participate. His mother finally relented and allowed him to accompany his brother and father. James gave John his rifle that he had used at San Jacinto, with the promise he would never surrender it. John swore that no Mexican would ever take it.
The Mier Expedition, as it came to be called, was a compete fiasco. The first casualty of the expedition was when the trigger of John's gun was caught in a mesquite branch and the gun discharged killing the man (17 years old) in front of him. After reaching the Rio Grande, most of the volunteers returned home under orders from Houston, but a group of two hundred men, intent on revenge, crossed the river and invaded the town of Mier. The Hill family was among this band. The soldiers of Mier put up a stiff resistance and soon the Texians were surrounded. A truce was negotiated and the entire group of Texians was surrendered by the commanding officer. As the Mexican general, Ampudia, was inspecting the "rebels", John stood out from the rest of the prisoners due to his small stature and obvious young countenance. Ampudia, whose son had been killed in the battle, "adopted" John as a replacement for his loss.
Santa Ana, a vain, self-centered opportunist, used Napoleon Boneparte as a role model. From military tactics to uniforms, Santa Ana emulated the Frenchman in his strive to become the "Napoleon of the Western World." There is a story that during a battle, Napoleon was surrounded by his bodyguards and one of them was slain. As was customary at the time, the wives and girlfriends of the soldiers were on the battlefield with Napoleon. The slain guard's wife took his position and was also killed leaving behind an orphan child. Napoleon, never missing a chance for self-promotion adopted the child and proclaimed him a "Child of the Empire". The child was given the best education and supposedly later became prominent in France in the mid1800s.
Santa Ana, after the fall of the Alamo, interviewed the freshly widowed Susanna Dickinson and daughter. He offered to adopt the daughter and raise her with the best of everything. Susanna refused.
When word reached Santa Ana of this young lad captured on the battlefield, he ordered John brought to the royal palace. General Ampudia gave John a fine saddle and horse to make the journey. At Mexico City, Santa Ana gave John and his father, still in chains, an audience with the offer of adoption. John agreed under the conditions that his father and wounded brother be released and sent home. This was agreed to and carried out. John was offered an education at the military academy, but refused saying that he could never take up arms against Texas. He opted for the prestigious College of Mines. Living in the royal palace, John and Santa Ana's wife, Dona Inez, visited his imprisoned comrades bringing them food and medicine. When the final prisoners had been released, John stayed in Mexico continuing his education and living with General Tornel's family during the times when Santa Ana was exiled.
Life was great for John, he traveled with Tornel's sons as their studies took them through the Aztec ruins and many other historic places. John kept in touch with his family in Texas, but Mexico and his studies held his interest.
The chance of Texian revenge occurred when the United States annexed Texas, and a boundary dispute triggered the Mexican American War. Once again, a member of the Hill family, Asa C. Hill, answered the call. The American army fought its way to the gates of Mexico City, and John Hill served as an interpreter for the armistice treaty, with his brother nearby.
While in school, John courted the daughter of an American businessman living in Mexico. The girl's widower father disapproved of the relationship and decided to move his daughter to California. John wrote letters, that were never answered, and the father finally wrote a letter to John that caused him to stop writing. The girl soon heard through the grapevine that John had boarded a ship to come see her, but the ship sank with all aboard lost. She later married, but became a widow years later.
After graduation, John, as a mining engineer, became successful as a developer of the vast deposits of minerals in Mexico and bringing the industry into modern times. Realizing the need to get his mineral deposits to market and improve the commerce of this widespread country, John began developing the railroad system that was virtually non-existent. John's brother, Asa, returned to Mexico to assist him with the connection of the railroad systems of Mexico and the United States.
John married a Mexican girl and had a small family, but he kept his U.S. citizenship as he traveled extensively between Texas and Mexico. He, for the most part, steered clear of the volatile political arena. However, when called upon, he supported the peon side as he fought for reforms to give the small farmers property rights. John brought various members of his Texas family to Mexico for vacations and included them in some profitable business deals.
In 1891, John's wife passed away, leaving with two grown daughters, which had been educated in Austin, Texas. He was depressed for some time, but the steady correspondence and visits from his large family helped him through this sad time.
In 1896, a magazine article concerning Mexico was published, and John Hill's story was included. In California, a widow was reading the story and realized that this was the man she had been told had drowned. After a search, she contacted John Hill and confirmed that this was the man she had carried a torch for. Hill still had strong feelings for her and they met, courted and then married.
In 1904, at the age of 75, John Christopher Columbus Hill, passed away from a heart attack in his adopted country and rests in a grave in Monterey.
As a footnote to his legacy, one of his gifts sent to Texas was one of Santa Ana's ornate jackets. It became a tradition in Fayette County for a groom to wear this jacket at his wedding. This was carried on for many years until the jacket disappeared. What became of the Hill family's adopted Mexican drummer boy is not readily known.
by Katie Kulhanek
Reinhard Hillebrand was a man of many professions. He was a revolutionary, a soldier, a county judge, and a state senator. Born in Germany on March 20th, 1810, Hillebrand grew up during a time of rebellion. He played a part in the 1848 Revolution in Germany. The revolution showcased the popular discontent with the traditional, autocratic political structure of the government of the German Confederation. The people wanted political and social freedom, democracy, and national unity. Although the Revolution failed, Hillebrand still pursued his goal of attaining those same ideals.
Hillebrand immigrated to Texas in the 1850s and settled in Fayette County. When the Civil War broke out in 1861, Hillebrand played a local role in the nationwide war. Throughout the Civil War, the Texas State Legislature provided laws and appropriations to organize companies of men to provide frontier defense. Hillebrand himself organized and formed the Rutersville German Company a company of volunteer infantry soldiers. Groups such as this one sprouted up all over Texas counties during the war. When first organized, these men were not part of the Confederate States of America, but served under the command and control of the officers in the employ of the State of Texas. The organization of these groups was along military lines. From mid-1861 up until December 1863, the groups were called “Frontier Regiments”. After 1863, they were mustered into the Confederate States of America. In official state records, these groups are listed as “Texas State Troops”. Despite his decision to organize these troops, Hillebrand was involved in anti-conscription measures in 1863 and was subsequently arrested by the Confederate military on the basis of treason.
Regardless of this setback, the negative effects it had on Hillebrand must not have been too bad, because in 1869 he was elected Fayette County Judge. He only served for one year as judge. There is a picture of him on the third floor of the Fayette County Courthouse in La Grange. However, the spelling of his name is shown as “Reinhard Hildebrandt” not Hillebrand. It is possible that some time after immigrating to America, Hillebrand could have changed his name to make it appear less German.
After he left the position of County Judge, Hillebrand chose to run for the Texas Senate. In “The Texas Senate: Civil War to the Eve of Reform, 1861-1889”, Patsy McDonald Spaw includes a brief paragraph about Hillebrand’s election to the Senate and other interesting information on his political stance:
Reinhard Hillebrand was chosen in a special election to succeed E.L. Alford of La Grange after the dispute that got Alford permanently banished from the Senate and the Republican party. Hillebrand, who had been imprisoned by Confederates during the war, emerged as a bedrock Radical who opposed business subsidies. He scandalized many when he was seen associating openly with black voters in a German beer hall. Hillebrand had some experience as a county judge in 1869 before his election to the Senate.
Hillebrand succeeded Alford on February 17, 1871, and took over District 26 of Texas. In 1880, records indicated that Hillebrand was still living in Fayette County, along with some of his family members.
But on September 15th, 1887, the people of Fayette County were startled to read the shocking news of Reinhard Hillebrand’s death in an article from the La Grange Journal. The article was published stating the following:
The death of Reinhard Hillebrand was caused by being thrown from his wagon while his team was running away, near the freight depot at this place. The horses ran against the tree, one on each side of it, the tongue striking the tree, throwing the deceased head first against it. Dr. W.W. Lunn was summoned to render medical aid. He had him [Hillebrand] removed to the residence of Mr. Wm. Karges, where everything was done for him that medical science could suggest, but without avail. He lingered until about 5 o’ clock, P.M. Tuesday, about 24 hours after the accident, when death relieved him of his suffering.
Mr. Hillebrand was an old citizen of this county, and was highly respected by all who had the pleasure of knowing him. He leaves several grown children and a host of warm friends to mourn his death.
Another article was published by the Dallas Morning News, which stated a slightly different story, stating that Hillebrand was killed instantly:
Death of an Honored Citizen.
La Grange, Tex. Sept. 12. Hon. R. Hillebrand, ex-Senator of this district, nearly 80 years old, was thrown from his buggy this morning and instantly killed. The ex-senator has been visiting his daughter here and was on his way to his farm. He was an honest and honored old citizen of this county, and many friends mourn his untimely death. He was a prominent revolutionist in Germany’s uprising in 1848, on account of which he had made Texas his home. His family, consisting of grown children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, have the heartfelt sympathy of this community.
Reinhard Hillebrand had already left his will to his two sons (Reinhard and Johannes Hillebrand) and his friend, William Karges. He was buried in the Hillebrand Family Cemetery located near Old Park Road near Park, Texas. The cemetery has a single tombstone with five of the family member’s names inscribed on it. The unexpected death of Hillebrand marked the end of an eventful and prestigious life that began in Germany and was continued and ended in Fayette County, Texas.
Some Historical Markers in Fayette Countyby Lillie Mae Brightwell
Have you ever been driving along a Texas highway when you zipped past a roadside sign which read “Historical Marker” and you passed it, wondering what it was about, but you didn’t feel that you had time to stop and read it?
Wonder no more . . . just take note of the county you are in and when you have time, surf the Internet at this Web site: http://atlas.thc.state.tx.us [Click on "Search the Atlas"]
Here are some examples of what you'll find:
Marker Title: Schiege Cigar Factory; Marker FM 237 Washington Rd., Round Top
Marker Text: By 1859 the U.S. was importing 900 million cigars yearly, mainly from Germany. Tariffs, levied on imported cigars beginning 1862, resulted in a dramatic increase in domestic cigar manufacturing. Tobacco was still an important cash crop when Charles Schiege, Jr., erected a one-room frame cigar factory here in 1882. The factory’s roadside façade bore a sign reading “cigars & tobaccos.” Factory workers made the cigars by hand and mainly from U.S. domestic tobaccos. Schiege marketed his cigars under a variety of labels, including “Texas Star,” until 1932 when he closed the factory. Sesquicentennial of Texas Statehood 1845-1995
Marker Title: The Oldest Czech Settlement; Marker location: from La Grange, take Hwy. 77, 4.5 miles south
Marker text: In Texas. Was established at Hostyn when in November 1856 the families of Joseph Janda Valintin Kolibal, Frantisek Koza arrived here from Czechoslovakia.
Marker Title: Site of Wood’s Fort; location: from West Point, take State 71 West about l.5 miles in to Junction of State 71 & County Rd. 117 intersection (roadside park)
Marker Text: Used by colonists of this vicinity as a protection against Indian attacks. 1828-1842 fortified residence of Zadock Woods, veteran of the War 1812. One of the old “Three Hundred” of Austin’s colonists. Oldest man killed in the “Dawson Massacre” September 18, 1842.
Marker Title: Dubina; Location: FM 1383, Dubina
Marker Text: Dubina, which derives its name from the Czech word for Oak Grove, was founded in 1856 by a group of Moravian immigrants, including the Marak Kahlich, Sramek, Peter, Holub, Muzny and Haidusek families. By 1900 the farming community had erected a church building, mill, cotton gin, blacksmith shop, store, and post office. A 1909 storm and a 1912 fire caused extensive damage from which the town never recovered. As the first settlement in Texas to be founded entirely by Czech-Moravians, Dubina remains an important part of the state’s regional and cultural history.
Bibliographies on file in the National Register are also listed. The Mulberry Creek Bridge in Schulenburg and the Kreische, Henry L. Brewery and House are long and interesting articles.
If you don't have a computer at home, visit your local library.
The Hoboby Norman Krischke
The Stock Market crashed in October l929 and the Great Depression was upon us. There were no jobs, there was no money, and hard times set in.
There were many men who traveled on freight trains from town to town looking for work; the name "HOBO" was attached to these men. When the hobo came off the train at mealtime, they went from house to house looking for work and food. After a while, they devised a system of communication to tell the next man what could be expected at any one particular house. They chalked a symbol on the house or gate post meaning: a bad dog, a loaded shotgun, a place to get food, a place where you had to work to get food, etc. Hoboes chopped wood, dug gardens, raked yards, carried away trash, drew water from the well, cleaned out barns, and any other job to get food.
There was a permanent sign on the railroad tracks at Upton Avenue in Schulenburg which read: "Hobo, don't let the sun set on you in this town!" which was effective except for a few exceptions. There was a couple of large, l0' X 5', wooden boxes containing coal at the Freight Station which were used for a good night's sleep, especially during the winter nights.
One hobo was observed stealing from a Schulenburg grocery store. He had on a large coat with a slit cut into the lining. He put onions, potatoes, carrots, canned lima beans and tomatoes into the lining. He paid for 10 cents worth of stew meat and walked out with the rest. He went to what was called "The Hobo Camp", located a mile west of town on Foster's Creek, where he cooked up a stew for all who were present. The camp was in a growth of tall broom weeds with a central bon fire ringed with sandstone. There were trails in the half-acre "Camp" with small places tromped out off to the side where individuals slept.
There was very little real trouble with hoboes in Schulenburg. The biggest problem was the housewife's having to deal with their requests for food.
The Life of a Wood-Burning Stove
By Carolyn Heinsohn
My life as a cast iron wood-burning cook stove began in a factory up north, one that probably was near an iron foundry. Unfortunately, my memory fails me insofar as my place of birth, although I believe that I was created in the late 1870s. I’m just a simple utilitarian model – no porcelain or nickel embellishments, no fancy embossed designs. I have four burner plates and a single oven with a fire box on the left when you face me. A lower outside shelf is attached on my left side and a higher one on the right, as well as two warming compartments above my cooking surface. Considering my appearance, I was probably at the bottom of the list insofar as my purchase price, but I was destined to a long life of service nevertheless.
Around 1880, I was packed into a wooden crate partially disassembled and shipped by rail over a very circuitous route to the loading dock at the depot in Ellinger, Texas. From there, I was hauled a short distance by wagon to the J.F. Krenek General Merchandise Store, believed to be the first business in Ellinger, which was established when the rail line first came through the area in 1873. All of the businesses that were at Live Oak Hill had moved to this new town named after an early settler, although the name was slightly altered.
It didn’t take long before I was purchased by Anton Hoelscher, Jr., who was renovating his home between Ellinger and Live Oak Hill. He had just built a new two-story house with a parlor and three bedrooms that would provide more space for his family. It sat next to an 1860 home that had two rooms and a loft. That section was connected with an open porch to another smaller building that housed an outside kitchen and tack room. After finishing the new house, he moved the outside kitchen into what previously was the parlor in the main house. His wife then wanted a new cook stove. This is where I entered the picture. The old kitchen was then used for bathing and storage. Eventually, the two houses were re-oriented and attached together with a new dining room.
My life was a busy one – hardly a day went by that I wasn’t working for the family in some capacity or another. Before I could begin to work, however, some male in the family had to go to the woodpile to chop logs and kindling that fueled the fire to heat me. A good cook soon learned how much wood and kindling to use to create the correct temperature. Dried corncobs were also used as fire starters. It was a challenge for the cooks to learn how to deal with me.
I’ve lost track of the number of pots of potatoes that I boiled day in and day out. Sometimes, noodles were cooked on Sundays, but potatoes that were grown in a sandy field and stored under the house generally helped fill the bellies of hungry family members, who worked hard everyday with field work and other chores around the farm. Multiple loaves of homemade bread made with starter yeast also found their way into my oven to bake. I did my best to cook the homegrown vegetables and fry or roast fresh beef or pork, as well as to bake the freshly-butchered hens and turkeys. Family members always gravitated to the kitchen with the aroma of those cooking meats, especially during the holidays. There was also an abundance of cakes, cookies and kaffee kuchen (coffee cakes), all of which took a skilled baker to create with my varying temperatures. Angel food cakes were especially tricky. I never promised perfection! Then there were the jars and jars of canned vegetables and fruits, pickles, jellies and preserves that were prepared with my help! Actually, without me, this family would have starved!
In addition to cooking food, I also provided heat for the kitchen along with my companion wood-burning box heater in the adjacent bedroom. Our 1860 abode was built with single-wall board and batten planks, so I had to work overtime to keep the room warm during those terribly cold winter days. I also heated water in a large kettle that was poured into a washtub in the old kitchen for family bathing once a week. In between those weekly baths, I also heated water several times a day to wash dishes. That water was poured into a dishpan on the kitchen table, and homemade soap was shaved into the water. The dirty dishwater was then added to the slop barrel outside, along with food scraps, all of which went to feed the hogs.My life spanned several generations of the Hoelscher-Fehmer family. I lasted longer than many of my neighbors, because my owners opted to not get rural electricity until 1955, and then they still kept me. Frugality and resistance to change were factors in that choice. Finally, after holding out until 1961, the man of the house was forced to purchase an electric range for his wife due to her age and declining health. I was over 80 years old by that time and extremely tired, ready for whatever came my way. I left the farm in pieces on the back of a scrap iron dealer’s pickup truck and was eventually reincarnated into a new life in a new form. However, my job as a cook stove was well done!
Butchering Holds Memories
by Gesine Tschiedel Koether
Many people in Fayette County have participated in the butchering of a farm animal. This article is not a step by step instruction of this process. It is a stroll down memory lane on a time gone by. Butchering is a joyous occasion made up of hard work, special skills, family interaction and a passing of knowledge.
Dawn is breaking on a cool dry morning as we arrive at the homestead to butcher a hog. The early glow of the sun closely matches the color of the fires being stoked under the kettles. There is just enough time to eat some homemade coffee cake with our coffee. Everyone is slowly getting into the rhythm of the day ahead. Four generations of family and friends participate in this time honored custom. We are family by heart, not by blood, and feel special to be included in this particular day’s event. Butchering will be repeated until all the hogs raised for food this particular year are processed.
Each of us knows our role and when we hear the shot we know our day has begun. The hog is bled and loaded onto a homemade skid to be pulled by the old tractor to the cleaning rack. Pulled up by the rear legs the hog is washed and scraped. The work may look easy, but is harder than you think. Boiled water from the kettles is used to make it easier to scrape off the hair. The smell of the cedar wood burning, along with conversations in German are comforting and makes me smile as I know I am among family.
After the body cavity is emptied into a washtub and the hog is portioned, the parts are doled out to various family members for processing. Oma was the matriarch of the family and always ended up with the large and small intestines to thoroughly clean for sausage casings. Her work was important and not just anyone could handle this smelly task. I personally liked helping her as she intrigued me with her stories of a time gone by. Inside the house, there are those working on the lunch meal. Outside the group works to debone the meat to grind for sausage and cut the steaks and roasts. Only one person works on making the head sausage as he knows just what the portions of various cuts of meat go into it. The family secret seasoning recipe is known to few and handled by only one. It could take years to decode or learn these family secrets if ever.
With a strong appetite and happy heart, we head to lunch when it is announced, as the workers have smelled the meal being prepared. The fresh neck steaks, fried liver, pork balls and vegetables never tasted better. Everyone brought something and all are hungry. There is not an empty chair at the table. We are grateful that some volunteered to remain outside to watch the fires and kettles. We spend time catching up on family and friends while fighting to get our portion of homemade bread or that special dish that we only get on butchering day.
After lunch the sausage is stuffed into the cleaned casings, the head sausage is put into the hot kettles to cook, meats are wrapped and the sticks for hanging sausages are brought out to be filled. Each link is hung on these sticks and carried with care to the smokehouse. Oh what an awesome sight and smell to see so many links hanging in the smokehouse. Ultimately, the head sausage is also hung there to cure. Wrapped bacon, small cuttings and other items are also found on the smokehouse tables. Nothing is wasted.
Our ancestors butchered out of necessity and it has become a lost art. Smokehouses are no longer a central part of the farms, but often artful additions. The chicken and hog pens are no longer needed items but fanciful decorations. With tears in my eyes, I see them go along with the smell of homemade smoked sausage. The taste of homemade head sausage is just a memory. Blessed are those here in Fayette County who still practice this art of butchering. Enjoy it, for we innocently took it for granted, only to find it gone one day due circumstances outside any one’s control. It only takes a cold winter day and the smell of a cedar fire to remind me of so many other articles I plan to write for you. Watch for them.
Photo: Vera Mae Weyand Fricke on butchering day; circa 1970s.
Source: Recollections of Vera Fricke
The Fat on Hog Butchering
by Gesine Tschiedel Koether
The brisk air has arrived, and the time has come for me to complete my August 2014 Footprint of Fayette article on hog butchering memories. At the Fricke/Weyand home near Round Top, the hog meat was processed, wrapped and waiting to be eaten but what about the large amount of fat we separated and placed in old porcelain bowls. Nothing was wasted and every part of the butchered hog was utilized. What could we possibly use that much fat for?
Fat in the solid state would spoil. It needed to be preserved. Placed in a large cauldron, over a burning pile of wood, the fat could be slowly and steadily heated until the fat and proteins separated. Whether it was to be used for lard or soap, this process would take the patience and knowledge. Hours were spent maintaining the fire as well as having to stir the fat to keep it from burning. Ultimately, the rendered fat became clear colored in its heated state and cooled to a smooth solid.
There were so many uses for the lard. The homestead machines needed it as a mechanical lubricant. Lamps and candles could use the lard like tallow as their fuel. Add a little lye and perhaps fragrance and you could produce a fine soap for body and/or your clothes. Pastries made with lard were proclaimed to be flakier. Cast iron pans could be seasoned with the lard and used to cook with. Some used it as a spread or dip. Folk remedies included its use as a poultice on burns and cuts. Chapped, cracked skin was soothed by the lards moisturizing and protective qualities. The “cracklins” produced in the rendering process were eaten or used in corn bread and such. Chicken feed could be supplemented with lard “cracklins”. Mixed with bees wax, lard could help maintain boots and wood. How could we possibly NOT use the fat?
Our ancestors used the hog lard out of necessity. With time, lard fell out of favor for products believed to be healthier. However, it was hard to ignore the practicality of the variety of uses that hog lard could provide for your household. The hours spent rendering the fat allowed time for visiting and taking turns stirring the pot. Our bellies were full of fresh pork, our hands were soft and supple from the work with hog fat and our hearts are still filled with precious memories of all the parts of hog butchering.
The Self Reliance Outfitter online site helped reinforce my memories of all the uses hog lard provided for our families. Let us not forget those times gone by and what we can learn from them.
John Thompson Holman
by Connie F. Sneed
John Thompson Holman was born May 21, 1818, in Albemarle County, Virginia, and died June 23, 1900 at his home near Weimar, Colorado County Texas. He was among the early settlers of Texas, coming to this State in 1837, in company with Captain Shields, Moses Cook and others. They first stopped in Matagorda County, then he went to Austin county but finally settled in Fayette County, Texas, on part of the Jesse Burnam league, situated on the Colorado river about twelve miles below the town of La Grange. Here is where he made his home, where he lived for many years, reared a large family, and engaged in farming and stock raising. He was acquainted with many of those who made Texas, and saw it grow from a vast vacant plain and a republic to a prosperous country and the Empire state of the union.
He was married three times, his first wife being the widow of John Shields, the second and third being daughters of Captain Jesse Burnam, a well known pioneer and one of Stephen F. Austin’s colony.
In the early days, when the Indians were to be found in large numbers throughout the country, and made frequent depredations on the scattered American settlements, Captain Holman joined many times in going to the relief of those unfortunates, and often had to defend his own family, property and community with little assistance. Among the most noted of these was a raid on the comanches in company with his father-in-law, Captain Jesse Burnam and in the command of J. H. Moore. This was done to avenge the terrible massacre made on the town of Linnville, now known as Indianola. After learning of these dreadful acts, Colonel Moore organized a band of men and started to overtake them. Knowing that they had gained several days in the advance, he secured and carried with him a herd of beeves to supply his command during the journey. Castro, the chief of the Lipans, with twelve of his men went as guides. They found the Comanches near the present day of Ballinger, camped on the banks of the Colorado River, and in a short while completely annihilated them, destroying their village, killing about 260 Indians, capturing men, women, and children, with 1000 head of horses. This was considered one of the most successful battles ever fought with the Indians in Texas.
At the opening of the Civil War his eldest son, Natt Holman, just eligible, enlisted in the Confederate army with Terry’s Texas Rangers, and while he himself, being almost over age, did not enter active service, her served for some time during the latter part of the war as a Captain in the Texas division of the commissary department.In 1875 he moved to Colorado County, near the town of Weimar, where he retired from active business to a quiet life and to enjoy the comforts obtained by the fruits of many years of toll and labor. He lived there until his death at the age of 82. He was the father of 14 children.
Memoirs of Jan Horak of Fayette County, Texas
by L.W. Dongress
submitted by Carolyn Heinsohn
The following article was written by L.W. Dongress for a Czech publication, “Amerikan Narodni Kalendar” in 1929, Volume LII. It was translated into English by R. J. Petrusek, Sr. of Fayetteville, Texas on February 20, 1985.
Near the old Czech community of Fayetteville, Texas, I found an old Czech pioneer, Mr. Jan Horak, who came to America in 1856. As I noticed his active spirit and excellent memory in spite of his age of 85, I was reminded of Mr. Gerenger. We were regretting the fact that the habit of early settlers was fast disappearing when upon arrival they would say, “we welcome you”, and after thanking you for a visit, they would usually add “let us have a drink”. The time has disappeared when the community was so “Moravian” that you could hardly communicate in any other languae, I got off a train there in 1894 and stood surprised with my mouth open as a negro approached and addressed me in the Czech language, “Give me your baggage and I will carry it to the hotel for you.” Mr. Jos. Tapal, the editor of Vestnik, carried me to the Hruska farm. When I got settled on the porch, grandfather Horak, after his useless excuse of poor memory, started telling the following life history:
“I was born in 1842 in Holicin near Holesov in the heart of Moravia. My father, Frank Horak, a farmer, had seven children. Of those living now are brother, Victor Horak, in Ammannsville and sister, Karolina Nietsche, in La Grange. We set out for America in December 1855 from Bremen and after a sail of 11 weeks, our simple sailing ship reached Galveston. My father knew Mr. Reimershofer in Cat Spring who also was from Holesov. (Comment: His daughter Klara Reimershofer died just this year in Galveston. Her descendents speak only German and English today. Klara was the last of the family who could speak Czech.) Everything in Cat Spring was wild at that time. Only a few Germans were settled there. Father bought a piece of land on which we farmed for two years. Reimershofer had a store in Cat Spring. Our transportation consisted of a wagon and a pair of oxen which were used even going to church. Cotton was brought to Houston and sold for 7 cents a pound. Someone by the name of Kinkler had a gin that was run by a team of oxen. Opocensky was here at that time. (Rev. Josef Opocensky organized the Czech Brethren congregation at Ross Prairie.) The Catholic settlers went to Frelsburg and then to Ross Prairie where there were Moravians also. There were no public schools. The ministers preached and taught Czech. In spite of oxen travel and bare feet, the youth were entertained by dances.
I was 19 years old when the Civil War broke out. My sympathy was with the North because we hated slavery. We came to America to be free and we were wishing for all people to be free. First only volunteers were called, but later they took all that were available and that by force. Reporting and lawlessness bloomed on all sides. When it came to me, I saw no other way out so I went. First they trained us in a camp close to Austin, and then they sent us to Brownsville on the Mexican border. Three weeks later, I succeeded to escape across the Rio Grande River. Soon, Frank Bezecny, John Peter and others crossed over. When there were 25 of us, they took us by boat to New Orleans and entered us into the Northern army. John Peter and I were not anxious to join the army and looked for work, but as we did not find work, we were hungry and thus forced to put on the Blue Coats. (The demise of John Peter was related in a previous Footprints story on the “The Peter Family of Dubina, Texas”.)
They put me into a company of cavalry that was formed of Texas runaways. There we trained for two weeks and then were sent out to catch “bushwackers” at Camp Moore. Those were madmen of Southern slave owners who carried on a war of their own. They crawled through the thickets and shot people from ambush. They were mad killers. A person did not dare to go out far from camp for the territory was covered with graves of those who had been killed. (Comment of writer: When I lived in the Ozark Mountains near Springfield, Missouri, I have seen many such graves of unfortunate sacrifices of fellow citizens’ war and fatasies of slavery.) Finally we caught up with 25 of them, and they were dealt with as deserving murderers. I spent two and a half years in the army, but I took part in only one battle. The Southerners came to Franklin near New Orleans. I was in the vanguard. The Southerners were warned and started to retreat. We were led by some German, and he was mad and gave out the order, “after the slavery dogs”. We had six wounded, and we lost 14 horses before the Southern slave owners ran out of firing range.
After the signing of the peace, we were sent to San Antonio and there on October 30, 1865, we received our discharge papers. Folks at home had a bad time during the war and even worse after the war. In Baton Rouge, Louisiana, we were throwing away confederate money by the basket. Our folks lived at Ross Prairie (Fayette County). I remained to help on the farm for four years. I wanted to get married. It is not meant for man to be alone in the world, and God did not want to remove a rib from me. So I went to work out at Mr. Josef Lastovica and in the year 1870, I got into it. I married Miss Apolena Zapalac, daughter of Jan Zapalac of Hrozenky (Novy Hrozenkov, Moravia), who came to America in 1855. We rented from the Zapalacs who lived close to Live Oak Hill. We lived there until 1918. The first club was Evangelical (Czech Brethren) in 1874. Czech was taught in the public school. Then came a Catholic priest, sisters, and also a law that teaching must be in the English language.
We had five daughters which are now married and living at Columbus, West, Crosby, Needville and Garwood. We took a boy from an orphanage and adopted him. In 1918 we bought some land near Fayetteville and have been farming since then. Otherwise our life went like all others. Those of course are family affairs, what is there to say? Light at daytime, darkness at night, cold in winter, hot in summer. People usually tell a lot of nonsense. I cannot complain and it really would not help anyway. I wait peacefully for the hour of my departure to the eternity from which I came.”
(Writer’s comments: Soon after this life history was written for the “American National Calendar”, the hour for which Daddy Horak so calmly awaited actually arrived. May his memory remain eternal.)
Edward Louis Hruskaby Lillie Mae Brightwell
Edward Louis Hruska was born August 1896, in Fayetteville, Texas. He married Frances Amalie Zabcik January 7, 1921. Frances was born March 5, 1897 in Ocker, Bell County, Texas. She was the daughter of Joe Zabcik, Sr. and Anna Mikeska. Frances was 3 years old when her mother died of cholera. Joe married Anna Mikeska's sister later. Her name was Christina Mikeska. They had a girl named Ellen. Christina died and Zabcik then married Vera Bubela and they had 4 children born to them.
Frances Amalie Zabcik Hruska went to school in Rosebud, was a member of the Brethren Church, Christian Sisters, and a homemaker. She loved fieldwork, growing a garden and flowers, especially roses. She was a good cook, baked bread and on Sundays always baked Kolaches, and made chicken noodle soup. She was a good seamstress, made quilts and feather comforts.
Edward farmed on the Hruska Estate farm. He was a trustee at Osveta many years, a land surveyor, and a real estate broker. He started working for the Foytiks Tin Shop in 1938. Mr. Foytik had legal problems with the Texas Liquor Control Board. Mrs. Foytik tried to keep the business going by herself but finally agreed to sell the business to Edward. After World War 11, Edward served one year as Mayor of Fayetteville. He moved his tin shop into the building between Sarrazin's Store and Marquart's Cafe. He was also Justice of Peace in Fayetteville for 15 years. He performed many marriages and was proud he had no divorces. He also leased and managed the S.P.J.S.T. hall and grounds for about 5 years (renamed Shady Grove). Later he moved his store to the building now occupied by Blue Meadow. He started to sell plumbing supplies, cisterns, and hardware. When he went home for dinner, he never locked the door to the hardware store. If someone needed something they could get the item they needed and settle with him later. Eventually he sold the hardware store to Mr. Uherek. He purchased the J. C. Tschiedel property in Park with 3 acres, dance hall, saloon, and store, living next door. He filed income tax forms and was a notary public. He filled out the papers for birth records, typing them with one finger and helped people to get their driver's license. He also managed the Mary Hill Estate 500 acre farm and ranch at Roznov for 15 years.
In 1918 Uncle Sam drafted him. The war ended the day his group arrived in Fort Worth. They got one-day of pay and came home by train. Today his son, Leroy, owns the property at Park. Before his retirement Leroy Hruska was the U.S. S. W. Manager of a screen printing supply and equipment company. The Park Hall had its last dance in approximately 1978. It was also used for family reunions in the 1960s.
Ox Wagons Haul Cotton to Mexico [George Huebner]
by Paul Schenck
George Huebner was not quite 12 yeas old when he started out on a 600-mile round trip to the Rio Grande Valley hauling cotton to be shipped to England. His freight wagon was loaded with big cotton bales and pulled by six yoke of oxen. That’s twelve big steers yoked together in pairs and strung out ahead of the wagon.
George had developed unusually good skills as a teamster on his father’s farm south of La Grange. Trained oxen are patient animals, but they require a patient drover they can trust, and young George had developed those skills early. He had no reins to direct the cattleonly his staff and his voice calling out a timely “Gee” or “Haw” to direct the lead steers to the right or left.
Oxen were often used on the farm to plow, because in heavy pulling, a yoke of oxen trends to pull harder and more consistently than does a team of horses or mules. In the mid-1800s more wagons were pulled by oxen than by horses and mules. They required less upkeep and maintenance. Oxen could subsist on oat straw if needed, but horses required good foodoats, corn, good hay or grass.
Pulling a load of valuable cotton through the South Texas lawless country during the middle of the Civil War was dangerous, with bandits from both sides of the border trying to steal the load, the wagons, and the oxen. On the return trip, the gold received in payment had to be concealed to prevent theft. Cotton wagons traveled in caravans for mutual protection. Some men volunteered for this duty as a legal means of avoiding the Confederate Army draft. Teamsters contracting with the Confederate government to haul cotton to Mexico were considered to be in a branch of military service.
Cotton was the main resource of the Confederacyif they could get it to market.
The Union blockade of southern seaports all but cut off exports of cotton, which was in heavy demand for the industrialized mills in England and France. That left the land route to Mexico and to the Mexican port at Matamoros as the best way to sell cotton for much-needed hard currency. The Confederate government required each wagon to carry at least five bales of cotton, and not more than ten bales. They also had to carry all the food for the trip, for little was available in the drought-starved south Texas desert of 1863.
George made five round trips to Mexico with ox-drawn cotton wagons. Each trip could take up to three months, which was the length of deferment from military service for draft-age men freighting cotton to Mexico. More time was allowed in case of a broken wheel, strayed oxen, or other trouble on the trail. Some volunteer helpers might desert and stay in Mexico or ship out to the North to avoid the war, but George and his oxen always returned home to Fayette County.
After the war, George continued in the freighting business with his ox teams and in farming. He married Lisette Warnken in 1874 and they had five children. He served one term as a county commissioner in 1899-1900 and refused to stand for re-election. He died in La Grange in 1936 at the age of 84. He was the last survivor of the county’s many teamsters who hauled cotton to Mexico during the Civil War.[Note: A large photograph of five yoke of long-horned oxen pulling a freight wagon is mounted on the wall of the Monument Hill and Kreische Brewery State Park headquarters building on the Bluff south of La Grange. The photo carries the hand-written caption “George Huebner and his ‘cows’” and a printed caption “An oxen team on a German farm in Fayette County, 1880s”. Another photo next to it on the wall shows the pioneer home of German immigrants Georg and Elise Willrich. This house is possibly George Huebner’s birthplace in 1851, for he was a grandson of the Willrichs.Paul Schenck]
Robert Hancock Hunter
TEXAS REVOLUTIONARY WAR HERO
By Mike Steinhauser
Only an exerpt from this lengthy article was published in the local newspapers.
Flatonia's Oak Hill Cemetery holds the last earthly vestiges of many pioneering citizens. Some were "prominent." Others were "ordinary." Some were "successful." Many struggled. Each have their own unique story. Each has left their own personal legacy. Unfortunately, many of these wonderful stories, legacies, and events that should be preserved and retold have been lost because of lack of interest or lack of a forum. One such pioneer is Robert Hancock Hunter. He has his own story. Fortunately, he did not trust his story or his legacy to the vagaries of time. His story and his legacy begin in South Carolina. His life's travels take him into contact with Sam Houston, Santa Anna and other significant actors and dramas in the Texas War of Independence. His weary bones rest in Flatonia, Texas. This is Robert Hancock Hunter's story, in his own words and with his own spelling whenever possible.
Doctor Johnson Calhoun Hunter was born in Charleston, South Carolina on May 22, 1787. He was a distant relative of Congressional firebrand, John C. Calhoun. Dr. Hunter married Mary Martha Harbert in Charleston, South Carolina on November 10, 1809. Mary Martha Harbert was born in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Wythe County, Virginia on August 29, 1792. Mary was related to David Crockett. The young newlyweds moved to Circleville, Ohio soon after their marriage. Since the young couple was not wealthy, they made the lengthy trip on horseback along with all of their household goods. Dr. Hunter both practiced medicine and taught school in Circleville for a number of years. He built one of the first brick homes in the area. Dr. Hunter served as County Judge for a time and unsuccessfully forayed into the mercantile business. Children soon began to bless the young couple. The first child to survive infancy was Robert Hancock Hunter who was born on May 1, 1813 at Circleville, Pickaway Planes, Ohio. In 1818 or 1819, Dr. Hunter moved his young family (now consisting of 3 children, Robert Hancock Hunter, John Calhoun Hunter, and Harriet Hunter) to the Madrid, Missouri area. Soon glowing reports of a far off opportunity called "Texas" reached Dr. Hunter in Missouri. In late 1820, Dr. Hunter joined a group of adventurers and headed for Texas without his family to scout for opportunity. Ever the entrepreneur, Dr. Hunter carried a large stock of medicine with him on his trip to sell in the Texan wilderness. In 1821, he left his stock of medicines with one of the Veramendis in San Antonio to sell for him. At some point in his travels in the Texas frontier he decided to move his family from Missouri to Texas. Dr. Hunter's fourth child to survive infancy was Thomas Jefferson Hunter born on March 7, 1821 at Washington County, Missouri. Therefore, the move to Texas by Mary and her 4 children must have ocurred in early 1822. Dr. Hunter met his family in New Orleans and purchased a small scow there. After loading the family's possessions in the scow the novice sailors skirted the Louisana/Texas coast heading toward Galveston Island. The Hunter family was assisted by a sailor named "Jack". On April 7, 1822 Jack and Dr. Hunter landed the family in San Jacinto Bay. As they sailed along the coast they stumbled across a wrecked schooner on the beach. The sun bleached bones of three humans lay in the beach sand nearby. Dr. Hunter and Jack spent 5 or 6 days repairing the wrecked schooner. Eventually they transferred a small portion of their precious cargo and possessions to the newly repaired schooner, tied the smaller scow to the back of the repaired schooner and set sail for Galveston. A strong gale from the southeast kicked up and broke the tow line to the scow which drifted toward the shore. Dr. Hunter and Jack continued on course and eventually landed the schooner near Taylor's Bayou. They then headed back to retrieve the scow. In the meantime a notorious land pirate named "Yoakum" and a gang of about 30 or 40 of his men beat Dr. Hunter to the scow and its cargo. The pirates liberated the barrel of rum that Dr. Hunter had on the scow and were roaring drunk on Hunter's rum about the time Dr. Hunter and Jack arrived. The pirates told Dr. Hunter they had no knowledge of the scow or its cargo. Dr. Hunter and Jack could not challenge Yoakum and his land pirates as they were vastly outnumbered. They wisely retraced their steps back to the hungry Hunter family. In all it took three days for Dr. Hunter and Jack to return to the Hunter family.
The loss of all of the provisions in the scow left the Hunter family starving. Upon returning, Jack killed an alligator and roasted its tail. Bolstered by the roasted alligator, the Hunter family finally arrived at Galveston Island. Five large emigrant ships were anchored in Galveston Bay. Captain John Roch commanded a big black emigrant ship. The Hunter family accepted Captain Roch's invitation and joined Captain Roch on his ship to replenish their strength. Now renewed and refitted the Hunter family and 2 other families sailed up to San Jacinto Bay and landed at "New Washington". Dr. Hunter made about $100 per family for ferrying them to their destination on his schooner.
The Karankawa and Tonkawa Indians were hostile in this region. The white settlers often displayed a white flag as a signal of distress to passersby. The wily Karankawas soon learned to bait a trap for unsuspecting travelers by running up a false distress signal on the beach or river bank. In this manner the Karankawas lured two families coming up from Galveston to come ashore in their boats. When the two boats landed, the lurking Karankawas ambushed the white settlers, killing three men, two women, and five children. One of the adult men escaped by jumping into the water and swimming four or five miles to alarm the Hunter camp. Dr. Hunter immediately gathered a small company of ten or fifteen men. The Hunter party carefully pushed through the bayous until they came upon the Karankawas cooking the hands and feet of the dead whites, eating the whites' flesh and dancing around the fire. The Hunter company hid in the tall grass to bide their time until daylight. At dawn the Hunter party fired their muskets into the Karankawas. The Karawankas not killed fled into the brush-never to be heard of again in that vicinity.
Dr. Hunter began to farm at Morgan's Point which located in modern day Harris County. He would trade sugar cane for corn in nearby Harrisburg. Twins, Thadeus Warsaw Hunter and Massina Hunter were born in 1823. Martha Hunter was born in 1825. Dr. Hunter entered into an active trade with the Coushatta Indians up the San Jacinto River. The Indians would trade deer skin, bear skin, raccoon skin, bear oil, venison and bear meat for sugar, molasses, rum, and red flannel broad cloth. Young Robert Hancock Hunter usually accompanied his father in their large canoe up the Trinity on these trading excursions.
After awhile, Dr. Hunter decided to return to San Antonio to see the Veramendis and collect the cash he had coming on the sale of the medicine he had left with Veramendi in 1821. The medicine was a scarce commodity in primitive Texas and the Veramendis realized a large profit for Dr. Hunter. Dr. Hunter received $1,300 in Mexican gold, fifty horses and ten mules for his share of the sale. Dr. Hunter hired two Mexicans to help him drive the stock back home to Morgan's Point. On the first night out on the road, the two Mexicans robbed him and vanished into the darkness. Although one of the robbers was later captured, whipped, and then questioned, he never disclosed the whereabouts of the $1,300 in Mexican gold that he stole from Dr. Hunter.
Dr. Hunter continued to trade in cotton, corn, rum, molasses and livestock. On August 10, 1824 Johnson received a grant of 1 league of land on the San Jacinto River from the Mexican Government. Also, in 1824 he shipped the first cotton from Texas to Louisiana "in the seed". Dr. Hunter owned a sloop that he used to ply the trading route to Louisiana. On one trip he and a Mr. Fowler were marooned on an island when his sloop was wrecked. He raised a white flag as a distress signal but the wary local captains thought it to be a Karankawa ploy and continued by the island on their way. Dr. Hunter and Mr. Fowler subsisted on the island for 21 days on fish and oysters. Finally they fashioned a raft of driftwood and pushed off of the island. They began to drift past the point of Galveston Island. As their small raft drifted in the current out toward the Gulf of Mexico Captain Decrow spied the castaways, and rescued them.
Dr. Hunter's family had a man named Brown living with them. Brown died when Dr. Hunter was away on business. Mrs. Hunter was unable to bury Brown because she was alone with her small children and no neighbors were nearby to help her. Brown died on a pallet of quilts in the corner of the house. Mrs. Brown covered Brown up with a blanket and stoically waited for the return of Dr. Hunter. Four days later, Dr. Hunter finally arrived home. However, the only resident in the house was the deceased and very ripe Mr. Brown. Mrs. Hunter and the children were compelled to vacate the premises and live under a tree due to the rapidly advancing decomposition of Brown. Dr. Hunter buried Brown nearby in the sand. For many years, "Brown's Grave" was used as a surveyor's land mark for surveys in the area.
Robert Hancock Hunter described the construction of his father's first house in his own unique style and punctuation: "Pa cut a big pole 20 feet lon(g) & put up a gainst 2 trees & cut some longpoles & put one end on the ridge pole & the other end on the ground & split out 3 foot boards, & covered it. It made a good house. We lived in it 3 or 4 years. We then went in to can brake & cut cane cleared us up a field. We planted our corn with hand spikes & axes, for three years before we could plow it for the cane roots. We made from 40 to 60 bushels of corn per acre & good big corn. Afeter we got to plowing we planted cotton. We made a bale and half of cotton to the acre, Pa sold his cotton 5 or 6 cents a lb."
Dr. Hunter's cotton crops continued to be his main source of income. Utilizing slave labor he shipped as many as 59 bales of cotton to market down the Brazos River on a canoe constructed from 2 large cottonwood trees with a wooden platform across them. William A. Hunter was born in camp under a tree on July 19, 1829. Amanda Wilson Calhoun Hunter was born November 21, 1833.
From 1829 to 1835 Robert Hancock Hunter helped his father, Dr. Hunter, expand and operate the Hunter Plantation. By the time of the Texas revolution, the Hunter Plantation boasted of 800 head of cattle, a multitude of hogs, a fine house, corn crib and the usual barns. However, the events of 1835 and 1836 were to drastically alter the routine life that 22-year-old Robert Hancock Hunter had come to know. History does not disclose at this point just why Robert Hancock Hunter ventured to the hostilities of war in San Antonio in 1835. Hunter volunteered in March to go to San Antonio to battle General Cos in October 1835. It is documented that he was with "Old Ben Miller" and Capt. James Perry.
Hunter told of a 5 day scouting expedition out of San Antonio led by Captain James Perry. The troops were provisioned with some beef to eat during the scout. The beef immediately spoiled. The scouts threw the bad beef away on the first day out of camp. Finally, one of the Texans killed a turkey. Five days later as the starving Texan scouting party returned to camp in San Antonio, the soldiers in camp were butchering fresh beef. Hunter rode directly into the pen where the cattle were being butchered, cut off a piece of cold fat from a hanging carcass and ate it. Remembering his acute hunger, Hancock later noted, "It was the best meat I ever et."
Robert Hancock Hunter also participated in the "Grass Fite (sic)." The Mexican Army detailed a work party with 75 or 80 mules to a small prairie on the bank of a hollow outside San Antonio to cut forage for the Mexican Army horses and mules in San Antonio. Hancock described the mules to be so overloaded with forage on the packs that only their noses and feet were visible. The Texans surprised the Mexican soldiers and attacked. The Texans backed the Mexicans down into the adjacent 10 foot deep hollow.
Spaced not more than 15 feet apart from the Mexicans, the Texans shot over the edge of the hollow bank at a 45 degree angle down into the Mexicans in the hollow and killed 35 or 40 Mexican soldiers. A nearby column of 1,500 Mexican calvarymen heard the shooting and rescued the remaining forage gatherers. Hunter described the Texan force as 150 men with "no a count" guns. Hunter's own flintlock was tied onto his rifle with buckskin. The stock and barrel were tied together with buckskin. The arrival of the strong force of Mexican cavalry forced the Texans to withdraw from battle. In late 1835, the Texans expelled General Cos from San Antonio and Texas. Hunter was discharged and returned home to Fort Bend County.
In early 1836, Colonel Travis and Colonel Bowie took up their position in the Alamo as a check on an anticipated invasion by General Santa Anna. When Travis and Bowie realized the overwhelming Mexican strength facing them at the Alamo, they sent scurrying couriers to the Texas settlements in a call to arms for reinforcements. Back on Oyster Creek in February 1836, Robert Hancock Hunter, John Calhoun Hunter, Robert McAnelly, Plesant McAnelly and Merideth Tunget were on top on the Hunter gin house nailing on shingles when a dusty courier with a dispatch from Travis rode up. The courier showed his dispatch to the carpenters on top of the gin house. Dr. Hunter asked the young men, "Who of you is going to Travis?" Both Robert Hancock Hunter and John Calhoun Hunter replied that they would go. They left immediately and arrived in San Felipe the next morning, at 2:00 a.m. to join Captain John Bird's 65 man contingent bound to relieve Travis at the Alamo. Bird's troops got as far as the "Big Hill" on Peach Creek outside Gonzales. While the troops paused to debate whether the better route to San Antonio at that junction followed the San Marcos River or Guadalupe River, a courier crossed Peach Creek with the news of the massacre at the Alamo on March 6th. The courier also handed Captain Perry written orders from Sam Houston to camp on Peach Creek until Houston's retreating Army rendevouzed with Bird. Instead of bypassing Gonzales and running headlong into the victorious Mexican Army, Hunter's band now joined up with Houston to act as his rear guard. Hunter tells of an encounter with some of the widows of the Alamo:
"That same morning (we saw) two women with 5 children with bundles of clothing on their heads. The Capt. ast them, which way are you going. We are trying to git away from the Mexicans. Their husbands was kild in the Alamo. The Capt ast them if they had no waggons. They said, yes, our horses was out on the prairie, & we could notfinde theme. We left our supper on the table we took what little clothing we could carry & our children & left. The Capt had his own waggon & team. Colonel Knight and White of San Felipe, put 2 large tobacco boxes in our waggon the Capt. told the Lieutenant McCallister to throw them boxes out of the waggon & give room for those women & children, why Capt. that tobacco was given to company, I was sitting on the waggon tonng. the Capt. said to me Bob give me that ax, I, gave it to him. The boxes was too large for one man to handle so he took the ax & chopt the boxes to pieces, & threw them out on the ground & called his men to come & get their tobacco. They took what they wanted. A bout this time General Houstons army a long & the Capt. haled them, boys dont you want some tobacco. They hollowed out yes. Here help yourself & they (took) all the tobacco. That gave room for the women & children, so we got them all a board. General Houston Army past on we fell in as rear guard."
Houston and his army fell into their retreat from Gonzales. At Beason's ferry on the Colorado, Houston's troops and the Mexican Army skirmished. After liberating some bacon from Mr. Beason's smokehouse, the Texans plunged across the Colorado River just a few minutes ahead of the Mexicans. The next day the Texans re-crossed the Colorado to sample more of Mr. Beason's fine bacon only to find the smokehouse burned to the ground. Hunter did not know whether to blame Houston or Santa Anna for the destruction of the smokehouse and tasty Beason bacon. From the Colorado and Beason's crossing, Houston retreated to Groce's plantation on the Brazos. Hunter picks up his story:
"We were all day crossing the river with our waggons, horses and oxen. Then we moved out Mr Dunahoes, Mrs Mann, with her two waggons & teams was at Mr Groces. General Houston, got a yoke of oxen from Mrs Mann to help the cannon a long. (there) had bin a greatdel of rain & roads was very bad. Mrs Mann said to General Houston, general, if you are going on the Nacogdoches road you can have my oxen, but if you go (the) other to Harrisburg you cant have them. I want them myself, Houston said well I am going the Naogdoches road, but he did not say how far he would go on it. Anyhow the oxen came, & we started. About six miles on the road the (roads) forked & the Harrisburg road turned to the right, All most right agle, down east & we got a bout 10 or 12 miles down the road and Mrs Mann over took us, out on the big prairie hog wallow & full of water, & a very hot day. She rode up (to) the general & said, general you told me a d--m lie, you said that (you) was going on the Naoogdocher road sir I want my oxen. Well Mrs Mann we cant spare them. We cannot get our cannon a long without them. I don't care a d--m for your cannon. I want my oxen. She had a pair of holster pistols on her saddle pummel & a very large knife on her saddle, She turned a round to (the) oxen & jumped down with (a) knife & out the raw hide tug that the chane with tide with. The log chane hook was broke & it was tide with raw hide. Nobody said a word. She jumped on her horse with whip in hand & way she went in a lope with her oxen.
"Capt Rover, (Rohrer) rode up to general Houston & said general we cant git a long without them oxen. The cannon is don bofed down. Well we have to git along the best we can. The Capt. said, well general I will go and bring them back. He said well. The Capt got a hundred yards or so, The general raised up in his saddle hollowed, Capt Rover (Rohrer) that woman will fite. The Capt d--m her fiteing. Houston jumpt down of(f) his horse & said Come boys, lesgit this cannon out of the mud. The mud was very near over his boots top. He put his shoulder to (the) wheel, & 8 or10 men more laid holt. Out she came, & on we went, & got down a bout 6 miles & campt at big mot of timber. A bout 9 or 10 oclock, Capt Rover (rohrer) came up to camp. He did not have any oxen. The boys hollored out hai Capt wher is your oxen. She would not let me have them. How come your shirt tire so, & some of the boys would say Mrs Mann tore it of(f) him. What was that for. She wanted (it) for babyrags. Capt Rover (Rohrer) was our waggon master."
Things turned serious for Houston though with Santa Anna and Cos in close proximity and on the heels of the Texans. Hunter's own words describe the scene:
"Well next morning we put out & got down about 6 miles of Harrisburg & campt at a little mot of timber & next morning got to the river oposit Harrisburg & campt. A bout an hour or so after camping Deaf Smith came in to camp, & (brought) word of Santa Anna. He was going down for New Washington, an the San Jacinto Bay. Houston gave orders to move at day light in the morning. At the brake of day, all up, breakfast over, the general told Major McNutt to guard the baggage waggon. The word was fall in the cannot was hitched up & the line formed & we started. Major McNutt haled the general, you ordered me to guard the baggage what will i guard with. Wher is your men. Here, how many 10 or 12 men from each Well call a detail & there was 10 men from each company, Meridith Tunget two other boys & my self was to gath(er) with a capt & we was called out & had to staywith the waggons. The army went on down to San Jacinto. That evening Ben Fulcher (and) James Wells came into camp with a prisoner, a currer with dispatches to Santa Anna. Major McNutt sent them on down to Houston. The Major was frade to guard him & chained him to a tree. He was the liveles sort of a fellow. All Spanish was around him develing him. We had him in camp 2 nights & the next day which was the 21 General Coss past on down threw Harrisburg, & Major McNutt gave orders not to fire a gun but be quiet. One of the boys below camp a peace fired a cros at them & Coses Men fired at us & wounded one of our men in the ankle, & they set fire to the town & burned down the steam mill. Coss went down to crost the bridge 2 or 3 hours before it was burnt Santa Anna had come up from New Washington & camp on the rige When Coss got in to Sant Annas Camp, a bout 3 oclock in the evening we hered a cannon fire & another & another, Three fired in (succession) & stopt, about 2 minutes a nother fired, & the little twin sisters commenced. They popt like popcorn in a oven, & we could here the small arms very plane. Our prisiner was the live-lest fellow you ever seen while the cannon was fireing. As soon the big gun stopt, he becum sulkey & would not talk, & we wanted (to) know what was the mater. It was a long time before hewould talk, & he said that Sant Anna was whipt. How do you know. I dont hear his guns.
"Between sun down & dark, a currer came up & brought word, & by times in the morning we were under way for the battle ground a bout 8 miles distant. We got there a bout 11 oclock. We went out to Battle ground & looked at the dead Mexicans, wher there cannon stud. For about 12 or 14 feet the mexicans lay 3 or 4 deck. They did (not) git to fire their cannon but 3 times. Our men shot them down as fast as they could get to the gun. Our men took their gun loded, turned it on them & shot them with theirown gun & the(y) gave up. General Houston gave orders not to kill a (any) more but to take prisoners. Capt. Easten said Boys take prisoners, you know how to take prisoners, take them with the but of your guns club guns, & said remember the Alamo, Remember Laberde, & club guns, right and left & nocked their brains out. The Mexicans would fall down on their knees, & say me no Alamo me no Laberde. There was a muddy laggune, a bout 4 or 5 hundred yards south of the Battle field about 15 or 20 yards wide, & the Mexicans broke. They ran for the laggune & men & horses went in head first & years to the bottom, a bout 18 feet boly (boggy) mud. It was said that Sant Anna money chest was thrown there, & a parsel of us Boys went (and) cut out some poles 6 or 7 feet long, probed down to finde the money & we could not finde bottom, & got some poles 12 or 12 feet long. We could feel the dead horses & expect men, but no bottom, & we gave it up. That laggune was full of men & horses for a bout 20 or 30 feet up and down it, & non of them ever got out. I think there bones are laying there yet.
"The land that the Battle was fought on was the property of a widow woman Mrs McCormac an irish woman. She came to camp to see General Houston. She wanted to know if he was going to take them ded Mexicans of(f) my Leg (League). They hant me the longes(t) day I live. Houston told (her) no. He wanted Sant Anna to buty them, & he would not. Sant Anna said that it was not a Battle, that he cald it a massacre. Plage gon him what did he call the Alamo & Laberde.
"I seen Joel Robertson & Silvestor & Hostic bringing Sant Anna The(y) came by the Mexicans that was under guard. You could not have it thunder for the shouts from the prisoners, exclaming, vive, vive, vive, Sant Anna. That was that Sant Anna lived The men took Sant Anna down to General Houston & Sant Anna asked in Spanish if there was any one present that could speak Spanish, & Moses Austin Bryan & a little man by the (name of) Baker, responded &, Sant Anna for Almonta & he got up & answered to his name. When Almonta got there, it looked like the hole Army had gathered there. General Houston ordered Sant Annas tent to be put up. It was put in a bout 10 or 12 feet of Houstons tent. There was a large tree had bloed up by the roots. Houston(s) tent was on one side of the log, & I & Merdith Tunget stud by that log & guarded Sant Anna, it came to our lot to guard him several times.
"General Wool from the Mexican Army at Richmond came under a flag of truce to Houston & to see Sant Anna Houston told Wool that he had made a treaty with Sant Anna. Wool said you cant make a treaty with Sant Anna. Sant Anna is a prisoner. Houston said I have & it shall stand. General Wool stade that night, & next morning he left for Richmond Fort Bend Co. & the next day a bout 3 oclock in the evening the Mexican baggage took fire. The baggage was all gathered up & piled all in one big pile, saddles blankets & all kind of clothing guns powders parahors (arapahoes) or pack saddles. There was a small boy looking at the pistols and snappling them. The gard told him that he might do some damage & to leave. The Boy said that they were not loded & one went of(f) amoest (amongst) guns. The powder was scatered all over the ground. He was snappling the pistols in a mongst pile of guns and set the hole pile a fire, & it was for a Tinger and myself as on guard that day, & we were garden Sant Anna. We were by the log that was before Sant Anna door when the firing comenced on the hill & Sant Anna broke for the doore. We jerked up our guns and presented them at his breast, told him to halt. He got within 2 feet of the door & stopt. He looked up strate in our eyes. We had our guns cocked on him. In a minute we seen what it was. Every body jumper for his gun. We thought that Col Ugawtechea & General Fillasola, General Wool had come from Richmond & attacked us. We did not know what Wool and Sant Anna had talked about. from the time that Wool left the morning before, at 9 or 10 o’clock in the morning & 3 in the evening when the fire took place, would make it about 28 or 30 hours which would give them plenty of time to come from Richmond a bout 30 miles. There is one (thing) a bout it I know we were pretty badly scared.
"We stade a the battle ground 5 or 6 days & the ded Mexicans began (to) smell so that we moved camp. We moved up the river to Dr. Pattrick place a bout 6 miles. General Sam Houston gave us a big talk, or a speech & a Farewell & he left for Galveston on his (way) to New Orleans, for Medical treatment of his leg or anole where he was hot in the battle of San Jacinto on the 21 day of April 1836."
At the Hunter Plantation prior to the battle of San Jacinto Doctor Hunter had gathered about 800 head of cattle and began to drive them eastwards ahead of the Mexican Army and away from the grasp of Santa Anna's hungry legions. Dr. Hunter could not get the entire herd over the San Jacinto River and had to abandon many to the Mexican Army that appeared on the prairie behind him going towards New Washington. As Houston drew near the San Jacinto River both armies now feasted on Hunter Plantation beef. After the battle Dr. Hunter returned to his plantation fearing its destruction. He managed to locate about 300 head of his cattle. The Mexicans did take advantage of the 300 bushels of corn in the corn crib and many of the Hunter hogs. Fortunately, the house remained intact--though filthy with the remnants of the meals the Mexicans made in the house.
As the vanquished Mexican Army retreated back to Mexico, Robert Hancock Hunter was discharged from the Texan Army once again. The Hunters recovered all of their kitchenware and tableware from the nearby cane brake where they had concealed these items to protect them from the Mexicans. The Hunters shared the corn they had left in the crib with hungry neighbors who had none. On September 30, 1836, Walter Crockett Hunter was born. No doubt he was named after David Crockett, fallen hero of the Alamo. [As a side note, this same Walter Crockett Hunter married Susan Elizabeth Cook on May 26, 1858 in La Grange, Texas.]
After the hostilities with Mexico quieted and the Republican era began, Robert Hancock Hunter, resumed his agricultural pursuits in Fort Bend County. On December 1, 1841 he married Sarah (sometimes spelled Samirah) M. Beard in Brazoria County. She was born on April 23, 1819. [The Beard name is also famous in Texas History. Sarah's two brothers, Robert S. Beard and William H. Beard, were with the Mier Expedition. Although they were lucky enough to draw white beans instead of the death sentence of a black bean in Haciendo Salado, they both died from other causes before returning to Texas from Mexico.] Their first child, Mary M. Hunter, was born in Richmond, Texas on September 24, 1842. Robert Hancock Hunter and Sarah M. Hunter lived in Fort Bend County until June of 1845. Hunter subsequently moved to Guadalupe County. Indians were still very dangerous in the region. One Indian broke into Hunter's stable at night to steal his horses, but the erstwhile horse thief could not decipher the lock on the stable door to let himself back out of the stable. He spent all night digging an escape tunnel out of the stable under the foundation.
Sometime in 1848 Hunter was moving his family back to Brazoria County from Guadelupe County when he stopped under three live oak trees not far from present day Flatonia. At the time the area was unsettled. The prairie grass was very tall and Hunter bundled up some grass to build a fire. Soon he noticed signs of fire and smoke in other directions. Hunter was alarmed that local Indians were answering his fire and smoke. Hunter immediately loaded up his family and vacated the area. The next day he was told that a man was killed by Indians in the vicinity. In 1854, Hunter migrated back to Guadalupe County and built a water mill on San Geronimo Creek about 2 miles east of Seguin. On December 9, 1855, the Hunters welcomed the birth of their fourth child, F.F. Hunter. The children now included Mary M., Jorynia, John C. and F.F. In 1857 the drought and the resultant grasshopper infestation drove Hunter to emigrate Victoria. So he sold his mill for $30.00 and moved once more.
In 1860 Robert Hancock Hunter hand wrote an account of his memoirs which is located in the Texas State Archives in Austin. In 1936, Beulah Gayle Green edited and published his memoir as the "Narrative of Robert Hancock Hunter, 1813-1902." John H. Jenkins III considered this one of the basic Texas books. Carlos Castaneda referred to it as "the best account of the San Jacinto campaign left by a veteran." In 1966 The Encino Press of Austin reprinted the saga. In 1880 Robert Hancock Hunter and his wife, Sarah, moved to Flatonia to be near their eldest daughter and her husband, Mary M. Burke and William Burke. The Burkes had resided in Galveston for a while, but by 1880 were residents of Flatonia. William Burke was born on January 14, 1836. He had served in the 1st Regiment of the Texas Volunteers during the Civil War.
In 1885, the Texas Legislature appropriated 1,280 acres for each Revolutionary War Veteran. Hunter eventually sold most of his land holdings. At one time or another he owned land in Guadalupe County, Caldwell County, Lee County, and Gillespie County. In April 1888, Sarah M. Hunter died. Seven children were eventually born to Robert Hancock Hunter and Sarah M. Hunter. Mary M. Burke, Joryna Walker who married Dr. M.F. Walker, John C. Hunter of Edna, F.F. Hunter of Galveston, Marcus W. Hunter, killed while serving in the Civil War, Messenia Hunter who died prior to 1894 and G. Ann Hunter who died prior to 1854. F.F. Hunter died on June 26, 1922 in San Antonio and is buried next to his parents in Oak Hill Cemetary in Flatonia.
Mary M. Burke and William Burke had 3 children; Robert James Burke, William Pickney Burke and Edmond Marvin Burke. Edmond Marvin Burke married Pearl Pharr. Three children were born to the Burkes: William "Billie" Walter Burke, Edna Ellen Burke, and Maude Burke. Edna Ellen Burke married Charles Martin Frierson. Four boys were born to the Friersons: Gilbert Wayne Frierson of La Grange, Kenneth Lenwood Frierson of Luling, Lloyd Douglas Frierson who is deceased, and Charles Martin Frierson, Jr. who died on October 19, 1944. Kenneth Lenwood Frierson still proudly displays the musket formerly belonging to Robert Hancock Hunter. Randy Frierson (the son of Lloyd Douglas Frierson) guards Hunter's battle sword.
Robert Hancock Hunter died in Flatonia on August 11, 1902. Until the time of his death, Robert Hancock Hunter remained loyal to the Methodist Church and the Texas Veterans Association. His fascinating story is one worth repeating. His life's experiences are worth remembering.
Sources: The Narrative of Robert Hancock Hunter, The Encino Press; The New Handbook of Texas, The Texas State Historial Association; Record of Southwest Texas, Goodspeed Brothers, Publishers; Various documents furnished by Terry Frierson
Hurricane Carla Leaves Her Mark on La Grangeby Annette Ruckert
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration ranks Carla as the tenth most intense hurricane in U.S. history, her remnants tracked all the way to Chicago, Illinois.
In September 1961, Hurricane Carla, the largest hurricane of record in Texas, had a 300-mile wide diameter of hurricane-force winds and a 500-mile wide diameter of tropical storm (gale) force winds.
Born at sea somewhere off Honduras, Carla was a Category 4 hurricane at landfall, a monster by the time she was eight days old. She hit the coast near Port O'Connor on Monday, September 11, with 145-mph winds. Port Lavaca reported gusts up to 175 mph.
Prolonged winds, high tides, and flooding caused well over 400 million, 1961, dollars of damage. Due to an impressive demonstration of Texan civil defense in action, the Division of Emergency Management mobilized quickly to evacuate 530,000 gulf coast residents out of the hurricane's path. Because of this&emdash;and an excellent early warning system--only 46 lives were lost, and records report just 465 injuries. In Fayette County, all lives were spared.
A La Grange Journal article from September 14 reported that evacuees came from Freeport, Brazoria, Ganado, Lake Jackson, Texas City, Angleton, West Columbia, Kingsville, Port Lavaca, Palacios, Galveston, Wharton, Bay City, and El Campo, as well as other coastal cities sought shelter in La Grange. Conservative estimates place the number of between 1750 and 1800.
Between 700 and 800 evacuees were housed in private homes; 200 to 300 at the school gymnasium; 60 at Roitsch's Camp; 150 at the Fairgrounds, Home Demonstration building, and VFW home; 200 in the motels and hotel; 225 at Camp Lone Star; 50 at Lutherhill; and many more in churches and other buildings around town.
Initial work to organize a Civil Defense Headquarters began a week earlier with the help of the La Grange Volunteer Fire Department. Clarence Schwake, the local Civil Defense representative, headed the organization. He received assistance from Stanley Webb, the fire chief; Frank Kana, the local Red Cross disaster chairman; and Gil Wessels, Harlie Carter, and John "Bubba" Kolbe, representatives for the Chamber of Commerce. The Oak Motel served as the headquarters.
The Red Cross provided food, cots, and blankets for the hurricane refugees. The 4th Army Headquarters at Fort Hood donated 200 army cots and blankets, and a local radio appeal resulted in an additional 200 cots from the Civil Defense station in Bastrop. The school cafeteria served approximately 1,200 noon meals and 500 breakfasts to the evacuees.
A spokesperson at Civil Defense headquarters said he was "well pleased at how smoothly operations were running here, as La Grange had never been involved in handling disaster victims and that there were very few persons in the La Grange area who were trained in the Civil Defense program."
Additionally, he commended Radio Station KVLG on the work they were doing in getting general messages out to the public.
"La Grange rode the eastern edge of Hurricane Carla to victory in the wee hours of Tuesday morning," reported a front-page story in The Fayette County Record on September 15. "It was perhaps a costly victory material-wise, but the city and environs emerged triumphant in that there was no loss of life&emdash;nor even the most minor injury as far as could be determined."
The high winds of Hurricane Carla reached their intensity between 10 and 12 p.m. Monday, September 11, 1961. Radio Station KVLG reported wind gusts as high as 100 mph and more. The winds felled power lines and posts, uprooted trees, tore down signs and billboards, and damaged roofs.
The most obvious damage was the destruction of the Sky-Hi Drive-in Theatre screen in the Riverside addition. Newspaper photos show only one large pole of the structure left standing, albeit at an odd angle, but the ticket office was untouched.
The Guenther airplane hangar, in the same general area, lost much of its roof and part of its east tile wall. The high winds damaged the roof of the Charlie Tobias Co., a furniture store downtown, allowing rain to pour into the interior and destroy some of the merchandise.
The hurricane winds ripped away 600 feet of the KJT office-building roof, and water flooded the first floor as it seeped through the two upper floors. Part of the Ben Franklin store roof was also torn away, resulting in considerable damage to the Christmas merchandise.
The La Grange City hall-fire station lost part if its roof, too, letting in the driving rain. Several downtown businesses lost their storefront awnings and the high winds demolished the weather station at KVLG, as well as the home of Mrs. Naumann in the O'Quinn area.
Most business people and homeowners had boarded up or taped their large windows, so breakage from Carla's high winds was not significant. Many television antennas were blown down, although most homeowners had the foresight to lower their aerials before the winds hit.
The cotton crops were badly damaged, according to County Agent Clinton Bippert. The corn that was still in the fields could be salvaged; though not "saleable," it would still be usable. Bippert estimated that only 20 percent of the pecan crop was left after the storm. Area dairymen were hard hit due to the failure of electric power that operated the milking facilities and cooling equipment.
Fayette Electric Cooperative dealt primarily with individual service outages and not main line breakage. Only about 25 to 30 poles were broken, considered minor in the vast system. Many rural telephone lines were also out, but the co-op was handicapped for much of the week due to trees on the roads and high water that made crew travel hazardous.
Reports of barn roof damage was extensive in the southern and western part of the county, resulting in damage to stored hay and other feeds. The three-day rains that Hurricane Carla poured onto Fayette County totaled 10.04 inches and even more upstream, sending the Colorado River over the 30-foot mark.
Although "Hurricane Carla is now history," The Fayette County Record summarized, "her effects will be visible for a while. The job of cleaning up is now in full swing, and that will take some time&emdash;but everyone is grateful that she spared life and limb."
Many people reading this Footprints article will well remember Hurricane Carla and have their own stories to tell. I am not one of them; after all, I was born four years later. However, were it not for this monster of a storm, I would not be writing this article.
It was Carla who introduced my parents, two teenagers at the time. My father, Billy Ruckert, was a local boy from Mullins Prairie who worked at a gas station and offered directions to hurricane evacuees. My mother, Hattie Kucera, was a girl from Brazoria who, along with her family, sought shelter and found a home in La Grange.
Fayette County Immigration Society
by Donna Green
The Fayette County Immigration Society was formed as part of a larger group of German immigrant societies from across Texas. The goal of these groups was to promote immigration to the state of respectable German families. Immigration of these families was good for the county as it provided an influx of cash and materials that led to strong economic growth.
Often the different societies would have friendly competitions to promote a certain area. According to the La Grange Journal of February 23, 1888, the Fayette County Immigration Society formed a five-member committee to write up the advantages and resources available to immigrants in Fayette County. The members were A. J. Rosenthal, Captain W. H. Ledbetter, Captain R. H. Phelps, W. S. Robson and Judge A. Haidusek.
This committee would produce brochures and advertisements to be seen in newspapers and flyers across Germany extolling the virtues of Fayette County to any Germans who were interested in making a new start in America.
It would seem that this was probably the first meeting of the society since permanent officers were elected. Those elected were Major B. F. Dunn, chairman; C. J. von Rosenberg, secretary; and R. T. Bradshaw, treasurer.
At this meeting committees were also approved to solicit monetary contributions throughout the county. The committees were formed along the lines of the commissioners’ precincts. The monies obtained from these fund-raising drives would be used to provide passage and other incidental fees for German families who decided to immigrate to Fayette County. The monies would also be used to provide upkeep for the families until they had established themselves.
The members also voted to recommend that auxiliaries be formed in each Justice precinct to further aid the society. The women of the auxiliaries would provide meals and clothing for the immigrants when they first arrived. Sometimes they would even take on the task of teaching the immigrants a few English words.
All areas of the county had representation at the meeting. Theo Wolters and Charles Kessler represented Schulenburg. John Lane represented Flatonia. Edward Henkel represented Round Top and Charles Luck represented O'Quinn.
The committee also voted to request that the county newspapers as well as the Texas Post publish the proceedings of the society and asked the secretary to provide the newspapers with a copy.
The Fayette County Immigration Society was active for several years in the late nineteenth century and was responsible for bringing many German immigrants to the area. Most of those families have descendants living in Fayette County today.
Indian Depredations Near La Grange
By Gary E. McKee
John Castleman, one of Stephen F. Austin’s Old 300, was granted a league of land in 1823, on the west bank of the Colorado, opposite present day La Grange, with the southern border being Buckner’s Creek. Austin was a frequent visitor to this area as this was the most western settlement in Texas. John and his brother, Sylvanus, were old family acquaintances of Moses Austin while they were living in Missouri before coming to Texas. Austin was already planning to acquire the rest of the Colorado River area up to present day Austin.
A number of letters from both Castlemans survive including the one below.
John Castleman wrote: (Original punctuation and spelling has been retained.)
[Addressed:] Col. Stephen F- Austin Felipe de Austin
Colorado January 17th 1826
DEAR SIR I wish to inform you that in my absence the Waco Indians Came to my House and plundered and Carried off the following articals two sheets two Quilts and Wagon Cover and nearly all our wearing Clothing and Table Furniture. It appears from the Conduct of those Indians that we Cannot Settle the frontiers of this Colony unless we Can have an understanding with them. For if they are allowed to Rob and plunder it will be impossible to settle the frontiers of the Country for I am determined to kill the first one that undertakes to Rob me again. Which will Commence a war. I have always wished peace if we Could have it on honourable terms. I do think peace Can be made with those Indians. But it is not my place to dictate for you---
While there were probably other Indian depredations in the area, another event was documented nine years later by William Simpson of Fayette County. Simpson later survived the Goliad Massacre, was recaptured by Mexican patrols, imprisoned at Matamoras and released after San Jacinto.
Gonzales, Apr 19th, 1835
Dir Sir: [to I.R. Lewis]
[the 1st paragraph is personal land business]
Mr. Griggi and four Mexicans were killed by a party of Indians on the 6th inst. at their camp within two hundred yards of Mr. Castleman’s house, and took goods to the amount of two thousand dollars. They were pursued the next day and overtaken at the Rio Blanco and four or five killed, one of which was the Chief whose scalp we have. The company returned on the 11th all well, bringing in goods to the amount of seven hundred dollars and thirteen scalps.
To Wit. The Chiefs Scalp, taken by Dr. Miller; Mr. Griggi’s scalp, taken at the camp; 4 Mexican scalps taken by the Indians; 1 supposed to be Mr. Edwards; 1 supposed to be Dr. W. White’s; 2 other White men scalps unknown; 3 Indian Scalps; 13 in number.
It appears these Indians were about one Hundred in number and had followed Mr. Stout from Bexar. We hold ourselves in Readiness and expect a call from these daring wretches.
Yours, William Simpson
This first document was extracted from The Austin Papers, edited by Eugene C. Barker, 1924. The second was from The Military Papers of the Texas Revolution edited by John H. Jenkins, 1973.
Indian Raid!by Judge Edward Janecka
In the summer of 1837, a raiding party of 30 Comanches was in the south end of Fayette County heading to Victoria with a herd of stolen horses. They were met with a determined band of settlers who were trying to retrieve the horses. The settlers were unsuccessful in their attempt, but early the next morning the Comanches swooped down on the farm of the Lyons Family who lived near the present town of Schulenburg. James Lyons had come to Texas from New York and his wife Martha was from Massachusetts. During the raid, James Lyons was killed and his 12-year-old son Warren was captured, along with all the available horses. The Lyons family heard no news of Warren until a neighbor 10 years later reported having seen a young white warrior with a group of Comanches who had come to San Antonio on a trading expedition. After lengthy interviews, there was no doubt that this young man was Warren Lyons.
Determining his identity was easier than persuading him to come back home. After all, he had acquired two Indian wives that he did not wish to leave. Not until Warren had been bribed with a red blanket for each of his wives and after pleadings from his brother Nathan to return to his ailing mother, did Warren receive permission to go home for 40 days. When Warren arrived the entire countryside tried to persuade him to stay permanently with his family, but he wanted to return to his wives and Indian friends. Finally, his brother DeWitt induced him to join a company of Rangers in Southwest Texas to fight Mexicans. He consented and while serving with the Rangers, he again adapted to the white man's ways. In later years, Warren even fought against his old captives. On February 27, 1851, the Rangers, under Major Edward Burleson came upon some Comanches at a point on the Nueces, a crossing on the road between San Antonio and Laredo. Lyons fought bravely. He came at the Comanches in true Indian fashion-jumping, stooping down and changing positions in various ways to deflect the aim of the Indians. He also helped Major Burleson interpret the commands of the Indian chief, helping to defeat the Comanches.
Warren Lyons married Lucy Boatright on September 22, 1848 and later moved to Johnson County where he died on August 11, 1870 at the age of 44. And that's the way it was in Fayette County in 1837.
Interesting Tidbits of Fayette County History
By Carolyn Heinsohn
The cut made in the hill for the railroad overpass about three miles southeast of La Grange on Hwy 71 S. was called “Dead Man’s Cut”. At the time that the Galveston, Harrisburg and San Antonio Railroad was building its line to La Grange in 1880, convict labor was being utilized by the railroad companies. Apparently, some of the convicts contracted yellow fever and died at the job site. They were quickly buried in the vicinity, which was customary for people dying of contagious diseases before people became aware of the causative factors. After that, the cut in the hill for the underpass was known as “Dead Man’s Cut”. The underpass has been replaced by a bridge that now goes over the railroad track.
Sheriff Will Loessin once owned a large farm off of Loehr Road in the Mullins Prairie area. He frequently took convicts from the local jail in La Grange to work as laborers on his farm. He constructed a two-story wooden structure near his large barn - one room was situated above another. At night the prisoners were shackled to the walls on the first floor, and Sheriff Loessin stayed upstairs, which gave him a vantage point in case one of the prisoners tried to escape. At one time there was also a row of tenant houses located behind that structure running parallel to the barn. The small two-story structure is still standing under a massive live oak tree next to Loehr Road. The barn and other farm buildings are slowly succumbing to the ravages of time. The tenant houses are long gone.
Lignite coal was mined in the latter part of the 19th century from a quarry along the Colorado River on the Edward Manton farm. The site known as Manton’s Bluff was located across from Rabb’s Prairie, about three to four miles upstream from La Grange. The lignite vein at that site was 18 feet deep. It was sold for use by blacksmiths, as well as for heating in homes and businesses in the area. The mine was closed, probably before the turn of the century, for an unknown reason. Lignite deposits were found along a belt from Ledbetter to Flatonia, especially along creek beds and the Colorado River. Two shaft mines were dug to depths of 55 and 95 feet south of Ledbetter between 1905 and 1908. The Melcher Coal and Clay Company was also operating at O’Quinn in circa 1913 to capitalize on the discovery of lignite on J.C. Melcher’s farm. That enterprise was short-lived, however.
In 1896, a significant amount of natural gas was discovered while a water well was being dug on the farm of Mrs. John Cervenka about five miles south of La Grange in the Bluff vicinity. At a depth of about 128 feet, the gas roared and rumbled out of her well so loudly that it could be heard 500 feet away. A “not-so-smart” onlooker lit a match, probably to light his pipe, catching the well on fire and endangering Mrs. Cervenka’s home nearby. It required ten to twelve men to drag water and dirt over to the well to extinguish the fire. The well was then tightly covered up and abandoned. That was an unfortunate year for Mrs. Cervenka, whose husband had passed away shortly before this incident.
There was a turkey “killery” called The Peter Company located in La Grange from the early 1920s into the 1930s. It was owned by Martin N. Peter, a native of Winchester, who was a grandson of Reverend John Kilian, the leader of a large group of Wendish Lutherans who migrated from Prussia to Texas in 1854.
After working as a traveling salesman for a saddlery company, Peter was a produce manager in Giddings by 1920 and then owned the “killery” in La Grange by 1924 according to a newspaper account of the murder of Henry Kiesling, a clerk at Fritz Mohrhusen’s grocery store on the La Grange square. The article stated that after being shot in front of the store as he was closing up, Kiesling staggered toward the ice plant, but then turned to go to the turkey “killery” that was just east of the store, knowing that workers were still there. Kiesling collapsed after walking about 60 feet and was transported to the hospital where he died the next day.
According to the 1930 census, Peter, a bachelor, was boarding with Genell Duncan and her daughter, Frankie, in their home at 250 S. Main Street. By 1942, Peter was living in Cameron, Texas. So he obviously closed his business sometime in the 1930s, perhaps due to the economic conditions during the Depression. Later the Pat-Mac Produce Company, owned by B.X. McGuire, processed turkeys at its location on East Colorado Street. That building is now occupied by the La Grange Farm and Ranch Store.
Photo caption: The Peter Company, a turkey "killery", in La Grange; courtesy of the Texas Wendish Heritage Museum.
Ancestry.com – census records; draft registrations
“Henry Kiesling Dies from Wounds Inflicted by an Assassin”. La Grange Journal, December 4, 1924
Lotto, Frank. Fayette County – Her History and Her People; Sticker Steam Press, Schulenburg, Texas; 1902
Woods, W.O., Retired MKT Railroad Engineer
Famous Czech Composer, Leos Janacek, Has Fayette County Connection
by Carolyn Heinsohn
Leos Janacek, one of the three most famous Czech composers, had a link to Fayette County that is relatively unknown outside of the families involved. Janacek (1854-1928) not only was a composer, but also a musical theorist, folklorist, publicist and teacher. He was inspired by Moravian and Slavic folk music to create an original, modern musical style. Ranked along with Antonin Dvorak and Bedrich Smetana as the most important Czech composers, Janacek is best known for his opera Jenufa, often called the “Moravian national opera”, his oratorical Glagolitic Mass, and his rhapsody Taras Bulba.
His older sister, Veronica, who had married Ondrej (Andreas) Cervenka, immigrated from Hukvaldy, Moravia, the village of origin of the Janaceks, to Fayette County with her husband and five children in 1870. They purchased two tracts of land, 99 ¾ acres and 50 ½ acres each, south of Hostyn, Texas.
Their son, Jan, who was an eight-year old twin upon arriving in Fayette County, later married Marie Mozisek on October 28, 1884 at Bluff (Hostyn). Marie was the daughter of Frances Sumbera Mozisek, a widow, who had immigrated from Sedliste, Moravia in 1881 to Fayette County with her five children, two brothers, Anton and Ludvik, and a sister, Genovefa Kruppa, and their families. Her older brother, John Sumbera and family, had already immigrated to Fayette County in 1879.
At some point prior to 1889, Ondrej and Veronica Janacek Cervenka chose to return to live in Hukvaldy, Moravia, leaving their grown children in Texas. A deed record, that was dated March 26, 1889 and filed in the Fayette County Clerk’s office, shows that Jan and Marie Mozisek Cervenka purchased the two tracts of land from his parents, who were already back in Moravia. There is a legal document written in Czech attached to the deed record that was signed by Ondrej Cervenka in Mistek, Moravia, giving his son, Jan, a clear title to the land.
Jan and Marie Cervenka had a total of six children; however, three died in childhood and are buried in Hostyn. The surviving children were: Agnes, who married Adolph Lidiak; Adolph, who married Olga Rainosek, and Annie, who married Willie H. Rainosek. Jan Cervenka died of pneumonia in 1896 at 36 years of age; he is buried in the Catholic Cemetery at Hostyn, Texas. After his death, Marie continued to live on their farm with her son, Adolph, and her mother, Frances Sumbera Mozisek.
Jan and Marie eventually acquired another 14 acres of land, because when Marie later divided the farm in 1914 between two of her children, Annie Cervenka Rainosek and Adolph Cervenka, there was a total of 164 acres.
After dividing their farm, Marie went to live near her daughter, Agnes Lidiak, who lived with her family at Barton’s Creek (Kovar), south of Smithville, Texas. Her mother, Frances Mozisek, was already living there as well. Marie and Frances lived together in their own small home located about one-fourth mile away from the Lidiak home.
So, all of the descendants of Marie and Jan Cervenka, the nephew of Leos Janacek, can claim a family connection to a famous Czech composer.
(Frances Sumbera Mozisek was the great-great aunt of the author.)
Jews Prominent in Fayette County History
by L. David Vogel
A common thread in the development of successful Texas and Southwestern towns and cities is a strong presence of Jewish citizens who, like their non-Jewish fellow countrymen, saw opportunities to exercise individual initiative and to make better lives for themselves, their families, and for the communities where they settled. The expulsion of Jews from Spain in 1492 coincides with Columbus’ exploration and discovery of The New World, and Jews are known to have been among the earliest Europeans to visit the Americas. Jewish communities flourished on Caribbean islands in the 17th and 18th centuries.
The first Jew documented to have had an impact on Fayette County, Texas was Samuel Noah, who was a member of the Gutierrez-Magee Expedition of 1811 and was also the first Jewish graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. Noah did not remain in Texas, but this expedition was part of the early attempt by the U.S. to exert influence on events then unfolding in Texas.
By the mid-1800’s Jews were establishing themselves in newly forming towns and cities all across Texas. It was considered a mark of real progress and prestige for a town to boast of “Jew stores”, and by this measure Fayette County was putting itself on the map! The Schwartz Mule and Feed Store in Schulenburg was considered one of the largest and finest of its kind. Many long-time residents still remember Ike Lippman and Son dry goods store in Schulenburg. Other Jewish merchants and entrepreneurs positively impacted commerce and civic activity in Schulenburg. In fact, Schulenburg has had two Jewish mayors in its history, the most recent being community leader Hirsch Schwartz, who served for 17 years until his death in 1981. Michael C. Levey served several terms as mayor of Schulenburg in the late 1800’s.
La Grange has also had its share of influential Jewish citizens, with numerous Jewish-owned stores and Jewish leaders. From businessman Gabriel Friedberger in the 1850’s and 1860’s to the Alexanders, owners of a wholesale grocery business and whose family home occupied the current site of The Fayette County Record office (Abram “Winchester” Alexander was a well-known hat-maker, and his brother Seelig was a Captain in the Confederate Army), and where many area youngsters learned to play piano, to George Lauterstein, merchant and community leader, whom many long-time La Grange residents credit with helping them to get started in business or to succeed in one way or another, Jews have had an impact. The Klein family sons opened and successfully operated dry goods stores in towns all across South Central Texas, including La Grange, and were well-respected and influential leaders in every one of those communities. The Gindler family still resides in area towns, where they actively participate in community affairs. There were many others. Jewish-owned stores were often given names that imparted an air of importance and worldliness to the downtown shopping district, such as Toubins’ New York Store and Feigenbaum’s The Famous Store in La Grange, and the Hollywood Store in Amarillo.
Many successful Jewish businesses evolved from the early efforts of ancestors who began as peddlers, bringing needed supplies and staples to pioneers in isolated and remote areas of Texas, then bought or built store buildings, and in many instances continued to grow into some of the largest and most successful department stores in the country. For others, the younger generations went to college, pursued careers in the professions, and left the legacy of the family-owned businesses to the history books.
Historic Jewish cemeteries in La Grange (1868), Columbus (1879), Hallettsville (1873), Gonzales, and other Central Texas cities give silent testament to the long and distinguished history of Jews in Texas. Still today, Schulenburg is believed to be the second-smallest community in the U.S. with an actively functioning synagogue, Temple Israel, a congregation founded in Columbus in the 1870’s.
As the circle of life continues, the Jewish community of Fayette County is growing once again, with Jews realizing the benefits of rural land ownership and a more serene lifestyle, like many others in the modern world, and discovering the advantages that life in Fayette County has to offer.
First Lady Tours Historical Sites
Transcribed by Connie Sneed
From the July 8, 1967 Dallas Morning News:
Lester Zapalac, Joyce Kolbe, Florice Zapalac, Lady Bird Johnson, Lloyd Kolbe, Dottie Roberts, Kay Zapalac, Congressman J. J. Pickle, Charlie and Evelyn Jungmichel — photo by Warren O. Albrecht
Round Top, Texas - Mrs. Lyndon B. Johnson took a sentimental tour of quaint places in her husband’s old Tenth Congressional District Friday, seeing what she called “some more of my beloved state.”
The First Lady wound up a quick-paced all day tour at this little German town 75 miles southeast of Austin. An exuberant Mrs. Johnson took the Central Texas trip on what she called “my day off” while she and the President are spending a holiday at their nearby LBJ Ranch.
Accepting everything from white orchids to red-white-and blue carnations to brand new historical pamphlets, Mrs. Johnson observed much of the historical culture of the German and Czech citizens so populous in this part of the state. Mrs. Johnson saw several local projects designed by local citizens to combine historic restoration and beautification.
In Winedale, several miles outside of this hamlet of Round Top, Mrs. Johnson was greeted by Miss Ima Hogg, daughter of the late Texas Gov. James Stephen Hogg, who has restored an old stagecoach inn and turned it over to the University of Texas.
Mrs. Johnson also viewed several old homes being restored by Mrs. Charles Bybee of Houston, as well as the 101 year old Bethlehem Lutheran Church.
At mid-morning, Mrs. Johnson went to nearby Praha, a tiny community populated by Czech citizens and given the Czech name for their homeland’s capital, Prague. There she was greeted by an eager Catholic priest, Rev. Marcus Anthony Valenta, who showed her through his church, St. Mary’s Catholic Church, and its nearby cemetery.
There, hundreds of parishioners and curious local citizens turned at to greet the First Lady, many of them in colorful Czech native costumes. Mrs. Johnson was taken for noonday lunch to the Monument Hill State Park near La Grange. There she had a typical Texas diet of black-eyed peas and catfish caught Thursday night in the Colorado River running right next to the park.
The First Lady, obviously touched by the huge crowds who turned out to greet her, said each stop of her trip “was a beautiful moment and I have seen a part of our Central Texas that is rich in history, rich in scenery.”
John Rice Jones, Jr.
by Ann Daves
The men and women who came with and followed Stephen F. Austin into early Texas revealed an uncommon ambition and worth. One who came to this virgin area of Eastern Fayette County was John Rice Jones, Jr. He was the son of Judge John Rice Jones and Mary Barger. John Jones, Jr. and Stephen F. Austin were boyhood friends in Missouri, where their fathers were partners in a lead-mining operation. He came to Texas in 1831.
The elder John Rice Jones was an educated Welshman in law and medicine and later became a member of the Supreme Court in Missouri. One of John Jr.’s siblings became a United States senator from Iowa. John Jones, Jr.'s military records include serving in the War of1812 under General Henry Dodge and a member of the Texas army in 1835.
Being known for "his integrity" and an experienced postmaster in the United States, he was appointed postmaster general of the provisional government of Texas in December, 1835, when the post office department was created for revolutionary Texas. It appears he was not in office for two years during Sam Houston's first term as president, but on
December 11, 1839 he was reappointed postmaster general by President Mirabeau B. Lamar. He also served as all executor of William Barrett Travis, who was one of the few victims of the Alamo tragedy who left any estate to be administered. He also taught school and had a mercantile business in San Felipe.
His first marriage was to Ruth Mary Hawkins and they had two sons, James Hawkins Jones of Austin and John Rice Jones III. After her death, he married Sarah Fidelia Heard.
John Rice Jones, Jr. died in 1845 at his home on Cummins Creek and is buried in the family cemetery. -Jones-Sheppard Cemetery. This cemetery is located about 3 miles north of Fayetteville.
There is a John Rice Jones centennial marker located 2.5 miles north of Willow Springs off FM 954 across Jones creek on private property.
Gayle Talbot "John Rice Jones, "Southwestern Historical Quarterly 35 (October 1931) L. W. Kemp, The Handbook of Texas”.
Journey to a Better Life in Texas
By Gesine (Tschiedel) Koether
Hundreds of thousands of immigrants left Europe for the United States in the 1800s. They were seeking economic opportunity, religious and political freedom and the chance to join family members who had gone ahead. At least three Fayette County families traveled to Galveston, Texas from Bremen, Germany in November of 1847 aboard the sailing ship Franziska. Whether they knew each other prior to leaving Bremen, Germany is not known.
Their trip began in early November 1847 when they arrived in Bremen with their few personal possessions, which included a large traveling trunk per family filled with family heirlooms, clothing, tools, and such. Perhaps a few food items were tucked away for the trip. It would take days to load all the items brought by the passengers onto the Franziska. The ship most likely was a packet ship carrying mail, cargo and people. Whether they were rich or poor, most crossed in the steerage area which was located below the decks. Whether people were young or old could also determine how successful they were in making it to Texas. Due to conditions varying from ship to ship, the steerage was normally crowded, dark and damp. This caused additional stress to those very young and those somewhat older.
The winds provided the power needed to make for a swift crossing, but also were the cause of stormy seas causing seasickness. A typical journey would take from six to eight weeks if they embarked in the right season for favoring winds. With just the right steering winds, a number of rain showers for refilling the water barrels, and favorable fishing for fish to eat, the journey would have been a true success. However, the journey across the Atlantic rarely was without peril.
Sanitation could present problems. Some passengers brought insects such as lice and bed bugs, others might have boarded with a common cold or even a communicable disease such as measles. Now close quarters would mean that the spread of illness would be more likely and potentially deadly. Many people, especially children, died from dehydration and extreme weakness resulting from seasickness, dysentery and cholera. Epidemic typhus from body lice infected with rickettsia from rats and mice was prevalent as well.
Feeding both sailors and passengers during the long voyage across the Atlantic to Galveston would have been a challenge. With no refrigeration, the most perishable foods, like cabbages and potatoes, would have been eaten first. Dried, salted, smoked and pickled meats would have been the best for preserving what proteins they needed. Wooden barrels would have been packed with these meats along with other staples such as fresh water, flour, salt and perhaps some sugar. Sadly, the food would often become infested with weevils or infiltrated by rats and mice, causing a devastating loss.
Food would need to be rationed during the voyage as it was hard to determine how long the entire trip would take. Oftentimes, the mid-day meal consisted of a greasy, watery soup made with a few vegetables when they were still available, lentils and small portions of stringy, salted meat. Thin semolina gruel, hard biscuits and coffee were usually served for both breakfast and supper. Successful fishing and rainfall became a blessing when supplies of food and water ran low.
Wine was a precious commodity aboard the immigrant ships in the 19th century, as it was considered both a medicinal product and a stable source of fluid that did not spoil. Another valuable commodity found on board ship was vinegar. Vinegar could be used for cleaning, disinfecting and treating lice, warts and ear infections, as well as a natural preservative. Vinegar was and is not a “cure-all’ potion and can be potentially harmful in large doses, but for the most part it had a healthy effect on board ships.
The Franziska left in early November and arrived on Christmas Day, December 25, 1847 after a turbulent eight week voyage. It most likely took a few or more days to dock and unload the passengers to be cleared by immigration in Galveston. On board were George and Louisa Fricke, Carl August and Emilie Bauer, and Johann Nicholaus and Fredricka (second wife) Henniger, as well as their five children. Sadly it appears that one infant girl of the Henniger family did not survive the trip.
With the clearance of immigration, all three of these families found themselves on a difficult journey across the Texas Gulf Coast marshes and bayous in the dead of winter. With their possessions loaded onto ox cart and bound for the German settlements inland, they most likely longed for homes back in Germany. They were repeatedly warned of the difficulties and hardships they would find ahead, but they continued their journey.
The 1850 census shows that George and Louisa Fricke eventually made it to Round Top and lists George as a farmer; they ultimately had seven children. August and Emilie made it to Spring Branch outside of Houston and were the driving force for many of the Carl Bauer family immigrating to Texas and eventually to Round Top where the Bauers played a huge role in the building of homes, churches and schools in that community. Nicholaus and Fredricka Henniger made it to the Shelby area where they farmed and reared the five children who came with them and the additional two born in Texas.
All of these families, like so many others before and after them, left a legacy. They went on to be friends with the passing Indians, built homes, mills and schools, as well as organized and supported their churches. It is important to remember they also were almost immediately thrust into the role of defending their new found country in its time of need.
Whether these families knew each other when they boarded the Franziska that cold day in November is not important. After eight weeks at sea under such harsh conditions and another journey across land on foot and ox cart, these families knew each other. I cannot prove if their paths ever crossed after leaving the ship, but know that they shared common memories of enduring their first new adventure together in 1847 aboard the Franziska and then the adventures in their new homes in Texas. It was a journey to a better life in Texas that they sought and found.
Photo caption: Bark Franziska, built in 1845; courtesy of Ancestry.com/Ships Pictures and Descriptions
“Henniger Family”, Texas Historical Marker No. 5015002438
Henniger, Monroe Richard. “Nicholaus Henniger and His Descendants (1794-1964)," Austin, Texas, 1964
Reverend Jindrich Juren
A Dedicated Circuit Minister
by Carolyn Heinsohn
Circuit ministers in the 19th century faced a multitude of hardships that challenged their abilities to spread the Word of God to the early settlers who were living in sparsely-populated areas in rural Texas. Due to their insufficient numbers, these ministers had to travel great distances for irregularly scheduled services, oftentimes based on the seasons and the weather.
One of the most dedicated and long-serving ministers in Fayette County was Rev. Jindrich (Henry) Juren, a Protestant pastor and educator, who served his people for over four decades. Juren was born on March 20, 1850 in Cermna, Bohemia in the Empire of Austria, the son of Reverend Cenek (Vincenc) and Antonia Kosut Juren. His father was the minister at the local Evangelical Brethren Unity Church.
The first two groups of Czechs to immigrate to Texas, arriving in early 1852 and late 1853, came from Cermna and surrounding villages. Rev. Josef Arnost Bergman, an Evangelical Protestant minister, who came to Cat Spring, Texas in 1849 to found a new community and congregation, sent a letter encouraging others from eastern Bohemia to immigrate to Texas. Wanting to find freedom from poverty, religious persecution and oppressive lives in the Austrian Empire, these Czech Protestants followed Bergman’s suggestion and eventually settled in Austin County. Rev. Juren would later provide for the spiritual needs of his fellow countrymen.
Rev. Juren received his basic education in the public schools in the Cermna area. After serving his twelve months of compulsory military training in the Austrian army, he decided to follow in his father’s ministerial footsteps. He attended universities in Bonn, Germany and Edinburgh, Scotland and completed his seminary studies at Basel, Switzerland.
In 1855, at the request of Czech immigrants who had settled in the Ross Prairie area in southeastern Fayette County, Reverend Josef Zvolanek came there to hold the first Czech-language Protestant service in America. However, Rev. Zvolanek did not organize a congregation, but only held services in the homes of various families until he moved away four years later. The Ross Prairie settlers then asked Rev. Josef Opocensky, who had organized the Czech Brethren Church in Wesley, Texas, to conduct their services. In 1870, with Rev. Opocensky’s guidance, the Church of the Evangelical Unity of the Czech-Moravian Brethren in Texas was organized in Ross Prairie. Unfortunately, Rev. Opocensky died that same year.
In 1874, Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Jecmenek donated ten acres of land as a site for a church building; eventually a cemetery and school were added to that property. Rev. Ludwig Chlumsky, who was not a resident pastor, held occasional services for the congregation. In 1875, the governing body of the church agreed to call a resident pastor. Rev. Chlumsky recommended 26-year old Jindrich Juren, a theological student still residing in Europe, who accepted the call and arrived in Ross Prairie in early 1876. Shortly thereafter, he was ordained in their new church in April and was married to Frances Schiller of Industry in December of that same year.
Rev. Chlumsky returned to Moravia in circa 1880, leaving Rev. Juren to alone serve all the members of the Brethren Church in Texas for approximately nine years until another minister arrived. He traveled by train or horse and buggy to locales in Austin, Bastrop, Bell, Burleson, Lavaca, Washington and Williamson Counties. Since Rev. Juren could only visit some Czech communities once every three or four months, baptisms and marriages were delayed until his “coming”. On one day in November, 1891, Rev. Juren baptized 31 children and married a couple in a school house near Caldwell, Texas.
Rev. Juren spoke five languages, mastering Czech, German, English, French and Polish. He was the organizer and a charter member of the Mutual Aid Society of the Unity of the Brethren of Texas and a member of the governing body for several years.
Concurrently with his ministerial duties, Rev. Juren taught public school for 40 years, including many years at the Osveta School located next to the Ross Prairie church. “Osveta” is the Czech word for enlightenment. Performing two jobs responsibly at the same time was extremely difficult for Rev. Juren, plus he was poorly paid for his pastoral work.
Although he lived alternately in Fayetteville, Wesley and Industry, Rev. Juren stayed in Fayetteville for a total of 32 years, providing 45 years of uninterrupted service as a pastor for his congregation in Ross Prairie.
Rev. Juren and his wife, Frances, had fourteen children together, twelve of whom lived to adulthood. After the death of Frances in 1906, he married a widow, Anna Kubin Mikeska, in 1911; they had three children, but only one survived.
In early 1921, Rev. Juren began experiencing hoarseness and had difficulty speaking. After several months of local medical treatments, he was advised to go to St. Joseph’s Hospital in Houston for additional treatment. He died there of esophageal cancer on May 2, 1921 and was buried in the cemetery adjoining his church at Ross Prairie. It was reported that hardly anyone attending his funeral could sing at his grave due to their grief over the loss of their beloved pastor.
Handbook of Texas Online, D.A. Juren, “Juren, Jindrich”, accessed October 7, 2016.
The Daniel Arthur Juren Family, “The Life and Times of Reverend Jindrich Juren, 1850 – 1921”; self-published.
Dr. Charles J. Kaderkaby Helen Mikus
Dr. Kaderka was born in Frenstat, Moravia, at that time part of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire, now a part of the Czech Republic. At first, he aspired to become a violinist by attending the conservatory of music in Prague. As there was an abundance of underpaid musicians, he sought his future in America. He immigrated to New York City, at the age of 28, and traveled to Fayetteville, Texas. Kaderka found employment with Frank Spacek in his general merchandise store, working mostly as a drug clerk. The study of medicine interested him and he entered the Memphis (Tennessee) Hospital Medical College, graduating in 1896. After his internship in Niles, Michigan, Kaderka came back to Fayetteville and practiced medicine and surgery until his death in 1937.
In the year 1906, he was united in marriage with Miss Anna Eilers and two children were born to them, Charles and Florence. They lived in the lovely two story white house on Live Oak Street in Fayetteville. Dr. Kaderka's office was on the north side of the square.
At first, Dr. Kaderka would make his rounds on horseback; later changing to a horse drawn, glass enclosed buggy for winter. When the Model T Fords came out in 1915, he was one of the first in Fayetteville to purchase one. It was very handsome having a pair of brass lanterns and brass trim. However, when it rained, he resorted back to the horse drawn buggy, so the Ford would not get dirty or mired on the muddy roads.
Dr. Kaderka's hobbies were not many; music was his chief diversion. He was an excellent performer on the violin, the bass violin and very skillful in making musical instruments. In his earlier years, he fabricated several beautiful violins, which he gave to his relatives. He also excelled in calligraphy and his writing was both distinctive and beautiful.
When he passed away at the age of 76, the Reverand Fathers Klobouk and Nesvadba officiated at the services held in the Fayetteville City Cemetery. Hundreds of people from the Fayetteville area and all over the state attended, attesting to the love and high esteem in which Dr. Kaderka was held by those who knew him.
July 5th Celebrations Draw Largest Crowds in Years
A reprint from the Schulenburg Sticker newspaper - July 9, 1926
Some of the largest crowds gathered in years were present in this section Monday.
The feast at Hostyn where Gov. “Ma” Ferguson and Farmer Jim Ferguson were scheduled to speak attracted one of the largest political crowds gathered in Texas this campaign. The crowd was estimated to be between 10,000 and 20,000 people. It is reported that a count was made of cars at noon and at that time 3,300 automobiles were there, a steady stream kept rolling in until it was necessary to park a car a mile from the speakers stand and walk. The people stood for hours in the burning sunshine without a thing to shade them to listen to Ferguson’s speech. The crowd was an almost solid Ferguson crowd.
It is safe to state that Ferguson will carry this section, Fayette, Lavaca and Colorado counties twice as strong as he did two years ago in the first primary.
Dubina’s celebration drew several thousand people for the day and night affair. Method Pazdral of West Texas spoke in the interest of Lynch Davisdon’s campaign. He had a good following and received considerable applause. The dance at night was attended by at least 2000 people. 300 dance tickets were sold to the young men. Hundreds turned back when they saw the crowd and were unable to get in.
Shiner, where Schulenburg folks went to see the ball game and to the dance at night had a big crowd. Dan Moody spoke there to a reported big crowd. Some most excellent band music was heard at Shiner.
Alfred Wolters’ dance at the Ermis hall here Sunday night, July 4th, had a record crowd, 20 tickets were sold to the men.
by Ed Janecka
Poet and writer Josef Kalus, a native of Frenstat, Moravia was the youngest of 14 children; his four eldest sisters and a number of other relatives immigrated to Texas. In his "Memoirs of Stani Bela" he described immigration in 1859.
" ...... When I was four years old, I heard constant talk about nothing but the sea at home. My two eldest married sisters, Johana and Marie, were preparing to leave for America with their families to find a better living. At that time (1859) this was an uncommon event and a brave expedition. The greatest worry was about overcoming "the big puddle" and reaching the other side, because such a voyage on board a sailing ship took whole weeks and sometimes was protracted over long months when progress toward the intended destination was hindered by storms. When my sisters were leaving at last, the greatest fear and laments were about crossing the treacherous sea; they worried about becoming victims of a shipwreck and finding their graves in the waves. For half a year after their departure we talked about nothing but them and the dangerous, ghastly sea opening ominous abysses to engulf and destroy them. It is impossible to communicate the anxiety alternating with tears and sighs that filled our home at that time. My mother in particular succumbed to limitless sorrow and grief, and she was inconsolable. Once I found her totally broken sitting on the floor of a room where we stored cotton, pressing against her heart a small worn-out shoe left behind by a grandchild, and drenching it with her tears. I burst out crying with her, so that she had a hard job consoling me. Then she ordered me: "You must not say a word to your father and sisters!"
Weeks and months passed without any news from our sisters. My father learned from newspapers about big storms at sea and many sunken ships. "What has become of our dear ones? Have they drowned as well?" - we all thought, but nobody dared to pronounce his suspicion. We just went around harried and turning aside to wipe our tears.
After half a year of uncertainty and constant waiting, a letter from America arrived at last. Everyone sighed with relief and exclaimed with joy: "They arrived safely, they are alive!" My father slit the envelope open and took out the letter with a shaky hand. His voice trembled, too, when he started reading: "Our dearest and most beloved parents, brothers and sisters and all our family!" He could not read on, because after these words the room resounded with loud crying, and even my father, a hardy man though he was, tried in vain to hold back tears and one of my elder brothers had to read instead. The letter said, I remember, that they had spent 16 weeks at sea, experienced terrible storms, and often thought that their last hour had come. When they at last came ashore, after immense hardship, they knelt down and warmly praised God for allowing them to set their feet on solid land again. Then our neighbors came and the letter was read over and over again; then it circulated around the village and there was no end to the strange excitement.”
The Story of Tabitha & Iraby Sherie Knape
Tabitha Moore was born December 25, 1832, the daughter of Col. John Henry Moore and Eliza Cummins Moore. She is known as the first white child born in La Grange. Tabitha was educated in Rutersville, Texas.
On April 23, 1854, she was married to Ira G. Killough. Mr. Killough was a native of Tennessee and came to Texas in 1851, where he farmed, raised stock and speculated in real estate. After marrying Tabitha, he moved from Washington County to Fayette County and established the Killough Farm on Clear Creek.
Killough served as a captain during the Civil War. In 1867, he moved his family to La Grange in order to educate his children. He was elected to represent Fayette County in the 13th Texas State Legislature.
During their fourteen years of marriage Ira and Tabitha had eight children. On October 2, 1878, Ira, Tabitha and their youngest son Benjamin left the family home in La Grange and traveled nine miles to the Killough Farm. After spending the day at the farm, Ira, with his wife sitting to his left and their son sitting between them, traveled home by open buggy. Just outside of La Grange, John D. Hunt, Robert J. Moore and Byrd Moore, all relatives of Tabitha, met them. They were armed with double-barreled shotguns. Standing just three feet away from Ira, John D. Hunt shot him in the chest and killed him instantly. Robert J. Moore and Byrd Moore were arrested, tried and acquitted. John D. Hunt surrendered himself to Sheriff Ulysses Rabb for investigation. Apparently, no charges were filed as John D. Hunt and his wife, Mary Moore, sister of Tabitha, soon moved out of Fayette County.
Local legend has it that John Henry Moore, Tabitha's father, did not like Ira Killough and was able to coerce his son-in-law, John D. Hunt, his son, Robert J. Moore and Byrd Moore into ambushing Ira, but nothing was ever proven. In John H. Moore's will, he specifically states that Tabitha, nor any of her children, were to inherit any of his estate.
After Ira's death, Tabitha changed Benjamin's name to Ira in honor of her husband. Tabitha Moore Killough died on October 31, 1895 and is buried in the Old La Grange City Cemetery next to her beloved husband, Captain Ira G. Killough.
Fayette County: Its Link with a World-Famous Ranch
By Sylvia Hebert
As the U.S territories were settled, inhabitants developed a true respect for a select few who were able to reach standards of success: land, position, and always – money.
A popular reputation gained the attention of settlers and landed ranchers equally. Stories of fortunes made and lost were great favorites for the cattle barons who were pouring their sweat into the acres of farmland and grazing land that was deeded to them. Those men who managed to make their fortunes, and hold onto them, were seen on equal footing with European royalty – those same rulers of importance from which most immigrants had quite recently escaped.
One of the most well-liked epics to emerge from this time of the state’s growth maintained the standards of success in massive measure – thousands of acres of excellent land, positions as proof of their high regard in the public eye, and a fortune amassed by sheer hard work and common sense. The story is that of the birth and growth of the King Ranch. Although many miles separate Fayette County and the South Texas ranch, an innocent turn of fate was of benefit to the county.
The resources built under the name of the King Ranch began with a steamboat captain, Richard King, who started with a 95,000 acre tract of land during the 1800s and eventually watched this grow to more than one million acres. From this ranch would come the first distinct cattle breed perfected in the United States. In the early 1900s, Santa Gertrudis cattle became world-known. The land later was found to have underground oil deposits.
Richard King became the main character in a publicized accounting of his varied sources of wealth. He accepted his shortcomings in money management and the legal paperwork necessary for all his holdings. He invited the most highly acclaimed legal expert in Corpus Christi to visit him at the ranch headquarters near Kingsville. Robert Kleberg accepted an offer of a $5000 retainer per year, to begin immediately. Even though King was rude, Kleberg had a strong motivation for taking the position. As King and Kleberg discussed the details of their joint business, King awakened his granddaughter Alice to make coffee. As Alice was quoted to have explained later, “It was love at first sight.” They were married in 1886. Alice represents the first generation with a female member bearing that name. Each successive generation was represented by a female with the name “Alice.”
Mrs. Henrietta (Mrs. Richard) King died in 1925. The ranch was placed in a ten-year trusteeship with three executive directors. The final power of decision went to Robert Kleberg, who passed away in 1932.
Trusteeship of the ranch ended in 1935 and was divided as directed in Mrs. King’s will. Humble Oil and Refinery leased land for oil and gas development. When the will was probated, Alice King Kleberg, the only surviving direct descendent, inherited the main headquarters on the Santa Gertrudis outright. After she completed some trading among the family, she was the first family member to move away from the ranch and family headquarters. She and her family moved to Hebbronville, where her trade had exchanged the ranch headquarters for two smaller ranches. She was fortunate to discover that both ranches were rich in oil and natural gas deposits.
In 1949, Alice married Richard Reynolds; they had three children together. They divorced in 1970. The Alice Kleberg Reynolds Foundation was established in 1997.
Following legal directives, the couple’s three children were named directors of the Foundation: daughter Katerina (“Chula”) Reynolds and daughter-in-law Sophia Collier; son Michael Reynolds and daughter-in-law Deborah (“DK”) Reynolds; daughter CoYoTe PhoeNix and grandson Kleberg (“Kley”) Reynolds. These three heirs are the administrators of the Foundation funds. Each is allotted a set amount of money for the year’s grant requests, and according to the personal interests of each, decisions are made as to which applications for funding should be supported.
In the stipulations of the wills left by Richard and Alice Reynolds, only residents of the 50 contiguous counties in the southernmost areas of South Texas are to be eligible to submit qualified applications. This included areas across which the cattle trails passed to market, all the way from Cameron County by the Rio Grande north to Fayette County, which barely made it into the 50 total counties. The counties that are qualified to apply for Foundation funds are: Aransas, Atascosa, Bandera, Bee, Bexar, Blanco, Brooks, Caldwell, Calhoun, Cameron, Colorado, Comal, DeWitt, Dimmit, Duval, Fayette, Frio, Goliad, Gonzalez, Guadalupe, Harris, Hays, Hidalgo, Jackson, Jim Hogg, Jim Wells, Karnes, Kendall, Kenedy, Kleberg, LaSalle, Lavaca, Live Oak, Matagorda, Maverick, McMullen, Medina, Nueces, Refugio, San Patricio, Starr, Travis, Uvalde, Victoria, Webb, Wharton, Willacy, Wilson, Zapata, and Zavala.
A slight twist of fate was all that was needed to include Fayette County in a treasure trove of funds.
An interest of one of the directors is that of veterans’ affairs. In 2014, an Honor Flight transported 60 WWII veterans from the Austin area to the National WWII Memorial in Washington D.C. It was funded by a donation from the Alice Kleberg Reynolds Foundation. As in the previous funding, only applicants from selected counties are eligible to participate. The specified counties for consideration of its veterans are: Bastrop, Bell, Blanco, Burnet, Caldwell, Fayette, Gillespie, Gonzales, Hays, Lee, Llano, Milam, Travis, and Williamson Counties.
The old saying must be true: it’s not what you know but who you know that makes the difference.
Fifteenth Austin Honor Flight takes 60 area WWII vets to memorial from Austin-Bergstrom International Airport; April 30, 2014
Obituary notice for Richard Wells Reynolds (1923-2014); Dallas Morning News, April 17-21, 2014
Sherry McGillicuddy; Executive VP and Trust Officer, Frost National Bank, Austin, Texas
The Director of Texas Foundations, Nonprofit Resource Center of Texas, 27th edition, 2008
Von Roeder, Flora. These Are the Generations: A Biography of the Von Roeder Family and its Role in Texas History; 2nd Edition, Vol. II
Tragic Death of Joseph Kocurek
by Ed Janecka
1883 started out as a great year for Joseph Kocurek. This 32 year old immigrant from Spruzi, Moravia was married and had two children. He was also an entrepreneur owning one of the first cotton gins in the south end of Fayette County. All that would change on October 19, 1883 with the arrival of one Edmund Denison.
Mr. Denison was a black man living on the opposite side of the county near Rabb’s Prairie, and he was searching for a lost horse. Some time before Andreas Koudelka had a mare stolen from him, and after it had been gone for a long while, the mare came back. While Mr. Kocurek was in Ammannsville, Mr. Denison rode up making inquires of a horse of the description of the one mentioned earlier. Mr. Kocurek told Mr. Denison that a horse of that description was in his neighborhood, and suggested Mr. Denison should meet him at Peters Store in Dubina.
Kocurek felt sure that Denison was the individual who originally stole the horse from Mr. Koudelka and in order to secure the capture of Denison, Kocurek recruited a friend. Both men were armed with Winchester rifles and went into the pasture where the horse was and took the mare to Denison. Denison identified the mare as the horse he bought six months ago from Bill White. Denison then got hold of the horse’s rope and pulled it loose and started off. He was ordered to halt as the horse was calmed by other parties. This frightened Denison and he began to run off while Kocurek pursued him on horseback. While trying to shoot to scare Denison a cartridge hung in Kocurek’s gun in such a manner that it would not be discharged. Kocurek then ran up beside Denison and threw him on the ground and the two men proceeded to fight. It took a while for the rest of the group from Peters Store to arrive at the scene, and when they did, Kocurek was on the ground with his head open and blood all around. He was dead. It was assumed that Denison had bludgeoned Kocurek to death with his own rifle. Denison was nowhere to be seen. A quick search party located Denison hiding in a tree on the way to Ammannsville. He was brought back to Peter’s Store where he was confronted by friends and neighbors of Kocurek. Mrs. Kocurek was on hand, and individuals were encouraging her to take vengeance into her own hands. County officers were immediately notified and arrived as soon as their horses could take them to the scene of the murder. It was with considerable bluff and persuasion that the officers prevented Denison from being mobbed. The prisoner was taken to the Fayette County Jail.
At the next session of the grand jury Edmund Denison was indicted for the murder of Joseph Kocurek by means of bludgeoning him to death with a Winchester rifle. Statements were taken from eyewitnesses who were at Peters Store and who later saw Kocurek dead at the scene. However, the testimonies didn’t seem to add up, and since Denison was vehement about his innocence, District Judge L.M. Moore ordered the body of Joseph Kocurek be exhumed to examine and consider the cause of death. The body of Joseph Kocurek was exhumed on November 29, 1883 at the Dubina Cemetery. On November 29th, Dr. Renfro reported to Judge Moore the cause of death was “gunshot to the head, the fact of which I have secured the ball from same.” Edmund Denison was exonerated of all charges and released. It was later learned that a local farmer, John Macura, was working in the field and had his gun close by. When Macura saw the fight between Denison and Kocurek, he attempted to shoot Denison but hit Kocurek instead. Mr. Macura soon left Fayette County and was not to be seen again. Several months later Denison was indicted for the theft of the Mr. Koudelka’s horse. There was a trial and 12 men found him not guilty. Mister Denison was also indicted five years earlier for the theft of three cows, which he was also found not guilty.
Two interesting observations; First it says a lot for the public officials of Fayette Co. to exhume a body of a white man to try to exonerate a black man, considering that slavery was abolished in Texas only 18 years prior to this event. I also found it interesting that when I was researching this story in the Courthouse, as I was going through the papers there was a small bag. Upon opening the bag out came the original bullet that killed Joseph Kocurek.
An Autobiography and Remembrance
by Gary E. McKee
In December of 2005, Fayette County lost a valuable asset in the form of Schulenburg native Norman Krischke, so this is a tribute to his memory. Norman had been a member of the Fayette County Historical Commission for 28 years and its vice-chair until December 2000. His in-depth knowledge of Fayette County was an important resource that has contributed greatly to the historical and cultural fabric of Central Texas.
I am going to let Norman tell you about himself. This autobiography, written in 1971, was extracted from Navidad Country, an outstanding history of the southern part of Fayette County by Iris Guerten.
“I was born here in Schulenburg, March 1925 on Paulus Street (named in honor of A. D. Paulus, J.P. of the Inquest 1880, who did considerable work for the railroad when it was built through Fayette County in 1873-1874). [ed.: Norman held the same J. P. position for years.]
My Dad was born at Weimar, grew up at High Hill, farmed two years near Lubbock, and in 1921, returned to Schulenburg. He was a carpenter, painter, now semi-retired. He built his own home with beautiful rockwork. His hobbies include building models of railroad engines in use between 1860 and 1936, painting in oils; building antiques such as a butter churn, a spinning wheel, coffee mills; turning inlaid candlesticks and exploring the history of High Hill, his home town. He painted two 3x6 foot pictures of High Hill dated 1876 and 1916. He went to school only 7 years; he was a self-educated, gifted, and talented man.
I entered the Air Force in 1942; saw service in 38 of the 50 states, the Philippines, Vietnam, Korea, and Canada. I met and married Evelyn Jeanette (Jan) Noel…. We have children: Carolyn, Stuart, and twins Valerie and Jennifer. We are expecting a brother for them in mid-September. After 26 years in the Air Force, we decided to retire on Dec 31st, 1969 and return to my hometown. I am at present working part-time for the Justice of the Peace and the rest of my free time is spent on history work for personal pleasure. I am a member of the Schulenburg Historical Society and also work with Walter P. Freytag on the Fayette County Historical Survey committee.
Back in 1964, I read my Dad’s account of High Hill, viewed his giant paintings of the community and became mildly interested in the history of Fayette County. I then obtained a copy of Lotto’s 'Fayette County, Her History and Her People' and found in it the place names of Oso, Blackjack Springs, Lyonsville, Roznov, Biegel, and others. Because Dawson’s men [ed.: Dawson’s Massacre, Black Bean lottery, buried at Monumental Hill Park] met at Blackjack Springs, I first tried to find the site of this early settlement. I talked to people for several weeks before I located the site. No one seemed to know about the village. For fear the old places would be lost forever, I decided to learn as much as I possible could about Fayette County and record and preserve the information.
The endeavor became my hobby. My thirst for knowledge channeled my efforts into three major projects:
- Gather material for a future handbook of Fayette County similar to Walter Prescott Webb’s Handbook of Texas.
- Maintain several large scrapbooks of historical clipping and obits.
- Seek out old cemeteries to record inscriptions and map the cemeteries of Fayette County to preserve as much as possible, the knowledge of the last resting place of our pioneers. They deserve more than a forgotten or lost grave. Pine Springs cemetery, near Flatonia, where Hugh M. Menefee is buried and where William Menefee, signer of the Texas Declaration of Independence was buried (now in the State cemetery of Austin) was rehabilitated by Mrs. Greg Ring in 1968; the results are remarkable. [ed.: since then citizens recently revitalized this cemetery.]
In addition to major projects, I work on single topics that capture my interest. One such topic was the site of James Lyons' double log cabin. Prior to March of this year, I had information that the cabin was located at six different places. After a little research, I found the sandstone foundation of the cabin; the site where James was killed by the Comanche’s and Warren carried off into captivity.”
Cemeteries were the focus of Norman’s interest. His zeal in preserving the knowledge of the citizens of the county was legendary. Norman’s concern for recording all ethnic and religious groups (and even a few pet burials!) was truly admirable. In the late 1950s, Joe Cole located most of the cemeteries in Fayette County and documented them in handwritten notes. Several decades later, Norman, along with his son, Stuart, transcribed, relocated, recorded and researched the sites, and then published at his own expense, a detailed booklet of the cemetery, its inhabitants and the history surrounding the cemetery area. Norman published 93 cemetery reports and 18 extinct school reports, each of which had information on the surrounding area.
His concern for the unmarked burials often led him to identify them, and particularly for children, placing small engraved markers at the youngsters’ graves. Divining rods were Norman’s tool of choice in locating unmarked burials. His expertise in using these modified coat hangers led him to publish an essay on their use in the county. The Texas Historical Commission called upon his use of divining rods in an attempt to locate the seventeenth-century cemetery of the French settlement, Fort St. Louis, on the Texas coast. The cemetery was never found by any means.
Norman’s historical interests were not singular; his curiosity ranged from the Native Americans of the area to recent events (someday this will be considered historic) in Fayette County.
When the writer was in the Boy Scouts, our troop went to the overgrown Lyons cemetery and watched with awe as this man (Norman) used coat hangers to identify graves. Four decades later, this writer was still in awe as we drove around Fayette County; he seemed to know the history of every crossroads or pasture. His knowledge was born of an inquisitive mind that was not afraid to ask questions as he frequently put me on the spot by asking my thoughts and knowledge.
His zest for life showed when a medical condition caused him to be life-flighted to the city, which resulted in a leg being amputated. When I asked him about the experience, all he could talk about was the fact that this was his first helicopter ride. The loss of a leg barely slowed him down, as he kept up working on his scrapbooks, and using his walker and Jan’s driving (and sometimes the writer’s driving) to visit historic meetings and sites and fielding questions from all of us historians in training.
Norman’s legacy lives on when people want to find about the location of their ascendants remains - they are directed to the Krischke files at the Fayette Heritage Archives and Museum or the Fayettecountyhistory.org website.
Photos courtesy of Gary E. McKee: Top, Norman and his dowsing rods, circa 2000; Lower, Norman Krischke at Fort St. Louis
Fighting Yellow JackCaptain T. H. Kroll
A story of one serviceman’s battle against the yellow fever scourge.
by Connie F. Sneed
It is not widely known that a Texan, Captain T.H. Kroll of La Grange was among those who serving under General Gorgas as his men threw the white veil cleanliness over the stricken island of Cuba in 1898, risked their lives as their part in the great fight against yellow fever. Captain Kroll was in command of one of the clean-up squads which went into fever-infested dens, removing bodies of victims and destroying breeding places of the yellow fever mosquito, and he recalls, while classifying himself as but a minor actor in the drama, the great story of the conquering of the dread “yellow jack.”
Spanish-American war veterans had to deal with yellow fever and health conditions on the island of Cuba. They had two foes the soldiers of Spain and yellow fever. They knew where to find the enemy soldiers and how to combat them, but the foe of yellow fever crept upon them unaware, often overnight, to strike them down. No one knew where it came from or how to combat it. Havana was one of the oldest cities in the Western world and had not been free from the fever for a very long time.
Dr. Walter Reed who was also a Major in the Spanish-American war was dispatched in 1900 to Cuba, which the United States had control of at that time, had a theory that yellow fever was carried by a mosquito and by germs. Dr. Reed was given a free hand to control the yellow fever situation. Once in Cuba he established headquarters outside the city and begin his experiments. The test he conducted established the origin and carrier of the scourge of yellow fever, forever placing the name Walter Reed in high esteem.
With this information the United States Government instructed General Gorgas to clean up Havana and the island of Cuba and exterminate the mosquito. He did the work so well that at the end of ninety days there was not a case of fever in Havana in the first time in over 100 years.
Captain Kroll was a native of Texas, born in Fayette County March 11, 1877. He was a member of the Fayette Light Guard of La Grange when his company as a unit volunteered for service in the Spanish-American War and held the rank of Lieutenant when it was mustered in. It became Company H, First Texas Volunteers. Later he was transferred to the regular army and promoted to the rank of Captain, which he held until demobilized. He comes from one of the fine old pioneer families of Fayette County. As a successful business man he had for many years been manager of a large wholesale grocery company. He could relate many interesting incidents of his stay on the island, but with modesty minimized his own part in the great achievement.
Dallas Morning News
FOOTPRINTS OF FAYETTE INDEX